Turkey astrovirus

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Higher order taxa

Virus; ssRNA positive-strand viruses, no DNA stage; Astroviridae; Avastrovirus


NCBI: Taxonomy

Genus species

Description and significance

Astrovirus originated from ‘astron’, a Greek word for star because of the five-pointed or six-pointed side projection which can be detected by negative stained electron microscopy (EM). They were first described by Madeley & Cosgrove in 1975 as the causal for gastroenteritis in infants. Astrovirus disease is known as the causal for gastroenteritis, it is usually mild but more serious cases have been discovered in poultry. Astrovirus is most commonly found in turkeys and can lead to mortality. In 1980, turkey astrovirus was first described and was linked with turkey poults in the UK that were suffering from diarrhea and increased mortality. They were discovered in the U.S. the same year. Although replication is only routinely detected in the intestines, experimentally infected poults show thymus and bursal atrophy and the virus can be isolated in other tissues.

Genome structure

Genomically, astrovirus have positive-sense, single stranded, RNA genome which are about 6.8 to 7.9 kb in length. Their genomes have three open reading frames (ORFs) which are organized from 5’ to 3'. ORF1a encodes a serine protease, ORF1b encodes the RNA dependent polymerase and ORF 2 encodes the structural proteins. The space between the ORF1b (open reading frame) stop codon and the ORF2 is 18 nucleotides. There is also a translation machinery for ORF1b, although its sequence do not give a clear picture to the overall translation strategy. The frameshift structure allows for the translation of ORF1a and ORF1b to occur in order for polyprotein to cleave into functional subunits.

Virion Structure

Turkey Astrovirus are non-eneveloped, spherical, icosahedral capsid of 28 to 30nm. On the surface, they appear rough, spikes protruding from the 12 verticals. As previously stated, the capsid is not enveloped but round with polyhedral symmetry.


Habitat; symbiosis; contributions to the environment.


After the turkey has been infected and then consumed by human, it typically cause watery diarrhea which lasts for about 2-4 days. It can also cause although less commonly, vomiting, headache, fever, abdominal pains, and anorexia in children under 2, elderly and immunocompromised people. Diarrhea is the third leading infectious cause of death worldwide.

Research done by Koci et.al. shows that turkey astrovirus causes growth depression,decreased thymus size and enteric infection in infected turkeys. This was done by removal of a novel strain from turkey with the disease poult enteritis mortality syndrome. The result shows that there was although there was severe diarrhea, histopathology changes in the intestine were not deadly and there was no inflammation. This result may be because of increased activation of the “potent immunosuppressive cytokine transforming growth factor beta during astrovirus infection.

Current Research

Enter summarries of the most rescent research here--at least three required


[Sample reference] Takai, K., Sugai, A., Itoh, T., and Horikoshi, K. "Palaeococcus ferrophilus gen. nov., sp. nov., a barophilic, hyperthermophilic archaeon from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent chimney". International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. 2000. Volume 50. p. 489-500.

Edited by student of Emily Lilly at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.