Newcastle disease (ND) is one of the most important poultry diseases worldwide and can lead
to annual losses of up to 80% of backyard chickens in Africa. All bird species are considered
susceptible to ND virus (NDV) infection but little is known about the role that wild birds play
in the epidemiology of the virus. We present a long-term monitoring of 9000 wild birds in four
African countries. Overall, 3·06% of the birds were PCR-positive for NDV infection, with
prevalence ranging from 0% to 10% depending on the season, the site and the species considered.
Our study shows that ND is circulating continuously and homogeneously in a large range of
wild bird species. Several genotypes of NDV circulate concurrently in different species and are
phylogenetically closely related to strains circulating in local domestic poultry, suggesting that
wild birds may play several roles in the epidemiology of different NDV strains in Africa.
We recommend that any strategic plan aiming at controlling ND in Africa should take into
account the potential role of the local wild bird community in the transmission of the disease.