Recent research conducted in Italy has shown that the oily secretion of the preen gland of free-living birds binds avian influenza virus to feathers.

According to studies conducted at Bologna University, the Veterinary Institute of Lombardy and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., the viability of the virus on feathers can extend for many days or even weeks.


Traditionally, studies on viral shedding have concentrated on swabs from the trachea and cloaca. Since the studies’ discovery, the examination of feathers may be of epidemiologic significance.