Human anti-viral meds for Mareks -- has anyone else tried this?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Sonya9, Feb 12, 2015.

  1. Sonya9

    Sonya9 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am trying Valtrex (an antiviral drug for human herpes) on two pullets that are showing signs. Has anyone else had success with this? I understand it works by blocking an enzyme that the herpes virus uses to replicate.

    I am pretty sure I have Marek's in my small flock. Never officially diagnosed but I have lost a few "stressed" birds in the last year and all showed the same signs. Did have a necropsy done on the first bird but because they did not see lesions they said it was not Marek's, now I know that lesions are often not found.

    I did find a youtube video (below) of a man that tried it twice and got good results. Of course the disease could have naturally gone into remission and maybe it is just a coincidence, but it is worth trying as otherwise I expect my two pullets will die.

    Here is the youtube video I referred to.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2015
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Nope, haven't heard of that, but good luck with it, please let us know how it goes.

    Best wishes.
     
  3. Sonya9

    Sonya9 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks. I started dosing 2 pullets on Monday and am starting to see a very positive sign in one bird.

    One is young pullet that just started the telltale "limp" and it was getting worse over a period of 3-4 days when I put her on Valtrex, 5 days later her limp appears to be improving which is a very good sign, every time that has happened before the bird rapidly went down with paralysis, so seeing improvement instead of decline makes me very happy. She is also very alert and her spirits are good.


    My other older pullet has been paralyzed for 3 weeks and honestly I can't believe she survived, she had siezures and didn't eat/drink for 3 days then started to improve on her own. She is still paralyzed but she is getting stronger every day, she is eating, very alert, and talkative (could be natural remission too).

    Unfortunately dosing is difficult, I got the 500mg tablets and didn't think to ask for oral suspension until later. My dosing probably isn't very accurate especially because I am just guessing here.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2015
  4. seminolewind

    seminolewind Flock Mistress Premium Member

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    Interesting to try. I hope it works, and it sounds like it may. And you're sure they have Marek's? Your hen looks like she does, but there are other illnesses that can cause symptoms similar to Marek's. It's something only a pathologist can diagnose. But it would be really good for everyone if it did really work.
     
  5. Sonya9

    Sonya9 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Like I said I had a necropsy done on the first but they only looked for lesions, nothing else.

    I am pretty sure it is Marek's, it all started 9 months ago when I took in a paralyzed pullet from an NPIP breeder, found out later he didn't breed her he bought her from someone else. He said she had just been penned up too long, but it quickly became apparent the problem was much more serious. She died a few weeks later after starting to have seizures.

    Since then I have lost 3 other birds at various times, some form of stress always triggers it, and it always starts with a slight limp that quickly turns into full on leg paralysis. Now I am super worried if a bird is stressed in any way as it can trigger them to come down with it. All of my other birds (mostly bantams including some that are 6 years old) have been in the same flock and have thrived.

    The fact the chick has NOT gotten worse in the last 5 days, and seems to be getter better is very encouraging to me. I also just realized I have been dosing it wrong, pharmacist told me "once a day" but that is NOT for stopping all out herpes or chickenpox outbreaks, I should have given it twice a day and now will.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2015
  6. seminolewind

    seminolewind Flock Mistress Premium Member

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    Well, Sonya, if the chicken has Marek's you may find losing others at varying times presenting a limp getting worse to full leg paralysis. It does sound like it, but only a pathologist would know for sure because there are other diseases with the same symptoms.

    It may be possible that those anti-viral meds stop the virus from multiplying . Sort of like a remission.

    Stress has a broad meaning. Stress can be dinner is late, to 4th of July. It's just not possible to keep chickens stress free. I think it would make us all crazy. I think what's meant with stress is that it may cause a period of immune suppression allowing the virus to multiply unchecked. That's just what happens. There's not much you can do about it.
     
  7. Sonya9

    Sonya9 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes well if I lose another bird to this I will have look into having the spleen(?) tested for Mareks. And yes the meds prevent the virus from infecting new cells, it actually targets an enzyme that the herpes viruses uses to replicate.

    In the meantime the breeder I got her from, who had been rapidly collecting a huge variety of heritage breeds and establishing breeding flocks of 6-10 birds each (he had at least 12-15 breeds with flocks of Ameraucanas, Lavender Orps, etc...) has since gotten rid of ALL of his birds. As of 6 months ago he was still acquiring new breeds and now they are ALL gone.

    He had invested a LOT in birds and incubators etc...in just the last couple of years and he was turning out hundreds and hundreds of chicks. I find it mighty strange that he suddenly shut down his business (that had 2 family members working at it with him) and got rid of all of his flocks. He claims he got rid of his flocks because he decided people would rather buy sex links and those would be easier to sell. Hmmmm.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2015
  8. rebrascora

    rebrascora Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi.

    I haven't really got anything to add to this thread other than my interest and a little bit of experience of what I believe is the disease in my flock.
    I currently have 2 pullets showing symptoms. Unfortunately I don't think we have access to the drug mentioned here in the UK. Drugs are much more strictly regulated here for humans and animals.
    I'm like you in that I haven't had a bird formally diagnosed, but I had 3 youngsters go lame in a very short space of time. I had a lot of juvenile cockerels reaching sexual maturity, running around harassing my hens at the time and I think that may have been the stress trigger. Things settled down after I removed the cockerels and I've had no more new outbreaks.

    One of the 3 initial cases got so bad she had to be culled and I found 2 tumours. One remained lame and has learned to hold her paralysed leg up so that she doesn't trip over her toes and she happily hops about and is quite mobile but has lost confidence in the main flock. She has been like that for nearly 4 months and lives in the infirmary/brooder. The other got spontaneously better from the first attack (where she went from being mildly lame to lying prone on her side in the classic splits posture in a few days) to the point you couldn't tell she had been ill at all. She has subsequently 2 months later had a second attack and is slightly worse than the cockerel in the video and has developed wry tail in the last few days as well. She is eating happily though. I've been giving her turmeric and black pepper but she's getting sick of it and no longer wants to eat her food with it in. I am thinking of making her a hammock as she is soiling herself propped up in a nest at the moment and keeps lipping over food and water when she tries to get up. I'm border line making the decision to cull, but I can't feel any tumours and she's still fighting, so I'm trying to think of ways to improve her quality of life in the hope she may make a second recovery.

    I think the problem with this disease is that it's very difficult to know whether any treatment is having an effect or whether it is just in remission. So far, I've seen all possible outcomes from no treatment. One was terminal and happened quite rapidly, one remained the same and one got better, but then went down with it again. I also had 2 cockerels show lameness around the same time and they both recovered completely.

    Anyway, I just wanted to subscribe and chip in my bit of experience. Considering how infectious this virus is and how widespread it is, my feeling is that if you have a young bird that is lame with no obvious sign of injury, there is a good chance that it is Marek's and it is better to acknowledge that and seek and share information than bury your head in the sand, as many people seem to do.

    Regards

    Barbara
     
  9. Sonya9

    Sonya9 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I believe it is available in the UK. Brand name is Valtrex (valacyclovir). I did have to have a prescription, I called my vet and he called one in at the local pharmacy for me. He knows I have been losing birds to this, he doesn't officially treat chickens but he is interested to see if it works because he has a large flock of his own birds.

    It is one of the newer herpes meds and imo may better because it can be taken WITH food, since the meds are going into their food that was important. If you do try it ask for the liquid suspension instead of tablets, that will be so much easier to measure. The major side effects can include liver/kidney damage which does worry me, but the major side effect of a Marek's outbreak is death so I think it is worth taking the chance.

    I am just thrilled that this may have stopped the progression in the young pullet who was starting to limp, it has been about 6 days now and most of my previously sick birds went down pretty fast. I realize it may take a while for the nerves to heal even if the virus is in remission.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2015
  10. seminolewind

    seminolewind Flock Mistress Premium Member

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    Sonya, that's real interesting with the Valtrex. I hope it does make a different often enough that it looks like it may help.
     

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