Spironucleosis (Hexamitiasis) in Quail
Martin Ficken, DVM, PhD, ACPV
A flock of approximately 10,000 Coturnix quail, aged 5.5 months, were experiencing mild diarrhea and various vague neurological symptoms resulting in a spike in mortality over the previous few days.
Four dead 5.5-month-old Coturnix quail were presented for necropsy at TVMDL’s Gonzales laboratory. The quail were euthanized on the farm prior to submission. Birds weighed from 214 to 234 grams. No external abnormalities were noted.
All birds had distention of the duodenum and upper jejunum (Figure 1). Contents of the dilated portion of intestine contained copious amounts of mucus (Figure 2). Intestinal scrapings of this area revealed high numbers of darting flagellated protozoa consistent with Spironucleus (Hexamita) meleagridis. No significant lesions were noted in any other tissue or organ system.
Infectious catarrhal enteritis (Spironucleus meleagridis) was the presumptive diagnosis following examination.
Spironucleus meleagridis is a flagellated protozoa that is the cause of infectious catarrhal enteritis which primarily causes disease in turkeys but has also been observed in pheasants, quail, chukar partridges, and peafowl. Affected birds do not show specific signs but a watery diarrhea is often observed. Birds may initially act “nervous” but later tend to become listless and huddled. Convulsions and coma may occur in the terminal stages of the disease. Lesions in the birds are those described in this case and a diagnosis can be made by impression smears of the duodenum demonstrating the organisms.
Beckstead, R. Miscellaneous and Sporadic Protozoal Infections in Diseases of Poultry 14th edition Wiley-Blackwell, ed. Swayne, DE et al. pp. 1238-1239, 1251-1254, 2020.