Epidemiological, pathological, serological and virological investigations are reported on turkey haemorrhagic enteritis virus (THEV) infection in Hungarian turkey flocks. The pathogenesis of infection in experimentally infected turkeys and chickens, as well as the usefulness of polymerase chain reaction (PCR)/sequencing method for epidemiological investigation and for the differentiation of vaccine and field strains of THEV was also studied. Since the first recognition of the disease in Hungary in the late 1970s, until recently the disease has been diagnosed sporadically in its mild form. In the last few years (2000–2005), however, the number of outbreaks and the severity of the disease increased (9–23 affected flocks/year). Most of the outbreaks occurred at the age of 6 to 8 weeks and was complicated with
infection. The antibody levels to THEV in turkey flocks gradually declined till 5–7 weeks of age, and then they increased sharply due to natural infection with THEV. The immune response to vaccination (at 5 weeks of age) showed no significant antibody level increase one week postvaccination, but four weeks later the antibody level reached high values and then remained at this high level. The agar gel immunodiffusion (AGID) test to detect turkey adenovirus A (TAdV-A) antigen and PCR methods for THEV-specific DNA gave similarly positive results if spleens with pathognomonic lesions were tested; however, PCR proved to be more sensitive in cases with less characteristic pathological lesions. Nucleotide sequence alignment of PCR products amplified from Hungarian field strains and the Domermuth vaccine strain and that of the published THEV hexon sequences in GenBank database revealed slight differences between the sequences.