Chlamydia in birds
By Sandy Rodgers, Serology Section Head
With over 800,000 tests run annually, TVMDL encounters many challenging cases. Our case study series will highlight these interesting cases to increase awareness among veterinary and diagnostic communities.
Chlamydophilia psittaci is a bacterium that can be transmitted from pet birds to humans. In humans, the resulting infection is referred to as psittacosis and is also known as parrot disease, parrot fever, avian chlamydiosis, and ornithosis in avian species. This zoonotic disease can affect people after exposure to aerosolized organisms shed from the digestive or respiratory tracts of infected live or dead birds or by direct contact with infected birds or tissues. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), during the 1980s, approximately 70% of the psittacosis cases resulted from human exposure to pet birds. Of those infected, approximately 43% included individuals who either owned pet birds or had exposure to pet birds.
Acute or chronic clinical disease can be seen in psittacines. Many infected birds remain asymptomatic until they become stressed. The clinical signs may include anorexia, lethargy, ruffled feathers, serous or mucopurulent oculonasal discharge, and weight loss. Some birds develop respiratory signs ranging from sneezing to respiratory distress. Conjunctivitis and diarrhea with green to yellowish droppings may also be seen. A patient is considered to have a probable case of psittacosis if clinical illness is compatible with psittacosis and has a single antibody titer ≥32, demonstrated by the Complement Fixation (CF) test in serum specimens obtained after onset of symptoms.
Quantitative tests such as the CF test can provide insight on the success of treatments in animals. The Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) offers several CF tests for various species. To see those test offerings, click here. Contact Sandy Rodgers, Serology Section Head, at 1.888.646.5623 for more information about serological testing.
For more information about TVMDL’s test catalog, visit tvmdl.tamu.edu.
Butler, J. C., & Whitney, C. G. (1998). Compendium of measures to control Chlamydia psittaci infection among humans (Psittacosis) and pet birds (Avian chlamydiosis), 1998.