REPOST: Alpharetroviruses: Bane of Chickens

This is a repost from the old ERV. A retrotransposed ERV ๐Ÿ˜› I dont trust them staying up at Blogger, and the SEED overlords are letting me have 4 reposts a week, so Im gonna take advantage of that!

I am going to try to add more comments to these posts for the old readers– Think of these as ‘directors cut’ posts ๐Ÿ˜‰

Retroviruses: They like causing cancer. Therefore, you really, really dont want endogenous retroviruses to be functional. But you dont have to take my word for it *rainbow shoots across the screen*

Chickens so rarely get honorable places in history. Yet they do have at least one cool honor– the species in which the first retrovirus was discovered!

Though RT wasnt discovered until the 1970s, way back in 1911, a fellow named Peyton Rous discovered that if he injected a healthy chicken with bits of chicken tumor, the healthy chicken got tumors. The idea that viruses could cause cancer was novel enough to win him a Nobel Prize in 1966! Sweet! Though he didnt know it at the time, Rous was studying alpharetroviruses.

Retroviruses are currently classified by phylogenetic analysis of RT genes. Obviously retroviruses have incredibly variable genomes, but their RTs remain stable enough that this analysis is possible. Theyre currently grouped into seven genuses, one of which is alpharetroviruses. Alphas, and Alpha-ERVs can only be found in birds… including our poor dear chickens.

The archetypical Alpha is Avian Leukosis Virus, the bane of chickens. ALV isnt exactly our buddy either. In the late 80s/early 90s, a subtype A ALV recombined with an endogenous ALV to create a subtype J, which caused a bit of a chicken epidemic. Big problem for chicken farms.

This also effects humans through our vaccine production. Turns out embryonic chickens arent just good for breakfast, theyre great little vaccine factories too! But unlike human ERVs, chicken ALV ERVs can still be pathogenic. There was a ‘scare’ in the late 1990s when RT activity was detected in MMR vaccines (*cue anti-vaxers* OMFG ALV CAUSES AUTISM!!111!!!1!). It is reasonable to assume alpharetroviruses wont know what to do with a human host, and the CDC explains why nicely:

Several factors, including a natural human resistance to infection with endogenous ALV, may explain the lack of transmission of these viruses to MMR vaccine recipients. However, few or no data are available on the ability of endogenous ALV to replicate in human cells. Resistance to endogenous ALV infection may, for instance, be attributed to the absence of a human cell-surface receptor for the virus as well as to other intracellular blocks for ALV replication. A tumor necrosis factor receptor-related protein, referred to as SEAR, has been recently identified as a receptor for endogenous ALV in turkey cells (22). Plasmid-encoded expression of SEAR in human 293 cells can confer susceptibility to infection by endogenous ALV, suggesting that human cells can support endogenous ALV replication if virus entry is achieved (22). Human serum can lyse ALV by complement activation (23); however, this protective mechanism has not been demonstrated for endogenous ALV and EAV particles.

Translation: We dont have the receptor it needs to get in our cells. Its only got one key, and it doesnt fit any of our locks. Cant get in. However, we do have ways of getting rid of it. Oh, but dont let that SCIENCE nonsense get in the way of a bit of fear mongering!

If portions (genes) of animal viruses are introduced into humans, they have the potentials to interact differently with each individual’s immune system and DNA, and cause disease. The presence of an avian leukosis virus (AVL), a retrovirus that infects birds, could be the reason approximately 1 in 1000 children will be diagnosed with leukemia by the age of 19.

Thus the CDC study mentioned above may not have presented an accurate assessment of viral presence, or long-term effects from the numerous ALV-associated offspring viruses. Considering that ALV can for example, easily capture the human erbB oncogene (59), and that erbB as well as the oncogene called myc are strongly associated with common forms of human breast cancer, it seemsthat the issue of ALV vaccine contamination would deserve a high level of attention

I recently acquired an empty vial of yellow fever vaccine and was startled at what was written on the label. “Avian leukosis free”. Is this an admission that it one time the vaccine did contain avian leukosis?

Yellow fever vaccine was known to contain avian leukosis virus.* During World War II, batches of yellow fever vaccines were inadvertently also contaminated with hepatitis B virus. Current measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccines contain low levels of reverse transcriptase, an enzyme associated with retroviruses. Both Salk and Sabin polio vaccines made from rhesus monkeys contained live monkey viruses called SV40, short for the fortieth monkey virus discovered. As Dr. Horowitz documents, polio vaccines may also have contained numerous other monkey viruses, some of which may have provided some building blocks for the emergence of HIV- 1 and human AIDS .

* Editor’s note: This is the retrovirus that causes leukemia in chickens.

Chicken embryos (eggs) used in making vaccines against influenza, mumps, measles and yellow fever commonly contain the retrovirus, avian leukosis virus (ALV) which has the amazing ability to mutate into numerous other viruses by incorporating oncogenic gene segments into its own genome.
Some of these segments which can be easily incorporated include human oncogenes strongly associated with common forms of breast cancer. As well, ALV can incorporate itself directly into the human genome.



  1. #1 efrique
    August 27, 2008

    Bane of chickens“. Heh.

    Sounds like something you’d hear in Kobolds Ate My Baby!

    “I are Tharg, great-nephew of Torg (All Hail King Torg!). Tharg – stealer of babies and bane of chickens!”

  2. #2 efrique
    August 27, 2008

    Damn, sorry about the misformed link. It was meant to be a link to here.

  3. #3 Becca
    August 27, 2008

    So even if it’s key doesn’t unlock our doors, we do after all have tumor necrosis factor alpha receptors… maybe they come along with a lock pick that gums up the works.
    I mention this because, although TNF-alpha signaling should cause necrosis of lots of tumors (duh), aberant TNF-alpha signaling (if the retrovirus can signal through the human receptor) could probably cause your leukocytes to go a little nutty (thus leukemia).
    Do we know what ALV does to TNF-alpha pathways in human cells?
    Also, leukocytes eat viruses. No key needed, just ginormous eating cells go NOM NOM NOM? Although that *should* activate nice happy defensive pathways. In theory. I know my bone marrow-derived macrophages don’t like to express exogenous DNA. I’ve yet to figure out if they don’t even take up my experimental (crippled) retroviruses, or if they take them up and have really good foreign DNA recongition (TLR9 anyone?) and go HaHa! We shall smite thee!
    (end result is no green macrophages ๐Ÿ™ and it irks me that I don’t know why not).

    Also, I’m pretty pro-vaccine, but if the polio vaccines have SV40 in them, doesn’t that make them like BSL2?

  4. #4 Jon
    August 28, 2008

    If there were solid evidence that SV40 actually did anything it would be BSL2. It’s still just a latent infection and hasnt been proven to do anything in even immunocompromised patients.

  5. #5 Becca
    August 29, 2008

    Hmm. SV40 isn’t always BSL2. I was missinformed. Still, what SV40-transformed human cell line isn’t BLS2?

  6. #6 shannon scrivner
    April 7, 2009

    my son had fluzone shot in nov 2005 and 11 days later he was diagnosed with aml leukemia. is this just bad luck or does this have anything to do with the chicken embryos used in the precess of making the flu shot

  7. #7 ERV
    April 7, 2009

    Hi Shannon!

    Very sorry to hear about your son (I hope he is doing better, now?), but his AML cant be connected to a flu vaccine. Even if there were Alpharetroviruses in the immunization, this kind of retrovirus cannot infect humans. Only birds have the right receptors on their cells alpharetroviruses need for infection.

    And, even if he was very unlucky and some cells got infected through unknown means, researchers have found that regular human blood contains proteins that can pop alpharetrovirus really easily (complement).

    Thank you for asking! And I really, really hope your son is doing okay!

  8. #8 shannon
    April 25, 2009

    my son passed away march 2005 and i’m not going to rest until i find out why he contracted this horrible disease. earlier in this report someone had said that maybe children are getting leukemia is because of the retrovirus that infects birds. what is up with that?

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