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Chlamydia psittaci
 
Description:

Chlamydia psittaci - also referred to as Psittacosis, Parrot Fever or chlamydiosis. The word Psittacosis comes from the Greek word Psittakos, meaning parrot. Chlamydia are gram negative, spherical, (0.4-0.6 micron diameter), intracellular parasites that people sometimes referred to as "energy parasites" because they use ATP (a crucial energy containing metabolite) produced by the host cell, hence, the term "energy parasites.

Incubation periods in caged birds vary from days to weeks and longer. Most commonly this period is approximately 3 to 10 days. Latent infections are common and active disease may occur several years after exposure. The incubation period of this disease is however difficult to assess due to these chronically infected birds that develop persistent, asymptomatic infections.

In birds, C. psittaci may manifest itself as an upper respiratory infection with nasal, and or ocular discharge, diarrhea, or a combination of all three. In some cases, birds may be infected but show no signs. These cases are of concern because these birds may become carriers and shed the organism.

A major concern with C. psittaci is the zoonotic potential of the organism. A zoonotic disease is an infection which can be transmitted from animals to humans. C. psittaci is also one of the major causes of infectious abortion in sheep and cattle.

*C. psittaci is related to Chlamydia trachomatis, the most common human STD, and Chlamydia pneumonia, a cause of human pneumonia. Chlamydia pneumonia is also being investigated as possibly being associated with cardiovascular disease in humans.

Transmission: Transmission of this organism from one host to another is primarily through the air. The bacteria is shed from an infected bird in the nasal and or ocular secretions, fecal material, and feather dust. The organism remains remarkably stable outside the host body and dries as a dusty substance. This dust or aerosol contaminates the air that is then inhaled by another possible host. Susceptibility as well as the amount of contamination determine whether or not the new host becomes infected with the disease. Vertical transmission through the egg has been shown in domesticated ducks.

The disease has a greater chance of spreading in overcrowded conditions, stale air environments, nest-boxes, and brooders. Pet shops, bird marts, and quarantine stations are also high risk areas.

*Transmission of the Chlamydial organism from birds to humans has been confirmed in a number of cases. Although psittacosis infection in humans is rare it is potentially dangerous for persons who are sick, elderly, immunosuppressed (e.g., HIV patients) or pregnant. These people should consult their doctor for more information concerning Chlamydia psittaci.

Symptoms:

In young birds clinical sings can include rough plumage, low body temperature, tremor, lethargy, conjunctivitis, dyspnea, emaciation, sinusitis, yellow to greenish droppings or grayish watery droppings may also be displayed. Adult birds may develop symptoms such as tremors, lethargy, ruffled feathers, progressive weight loss, greenish diarrhea, occasional conjunctivitis, and high levels of urates in droppings. Birds infected with Chlamydia may develop one or several of these symptoms as the disease progresses.

Clinical changes associated with a Chlamydia infection include WBC elevated 2-3 times, Hct decreased 25-40%, SGOT elevated at least 2-3 times the normal levels, LDH elevated by at least 20%, and AST elevated by at least 2-3 times the normal limit. Other, more slight changes can occur in blood hematology and chemistry.

*In humans: abrupt onset of fever, chills, headache, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, malaise, myalgia, and conjunctivitis can occur as a result of a Chlamydia infection.

Prevention: Preventing the organism from entering your facility is the best method of prevention. Test and quarantine all new birds before entering them in your aviary; avoid bird marts and bird fares where the disease can spread. Commonsense hygiene includes the removal of fecal material, and quality air circulation,
Treatment: Most treatments involve the use of tetracycline and its derivatives such as Vibramycin, Doxycycline, Oxytetracycline. The antibiotic can be given by intravenous or intramuscular injections. Antibiotics can also be given orally or mixed with palatable food. Treatment periods generally last about 45 days varying slightly depending on the treatment. *Calcium should be withheld because tetracycline binds to calcium. Citric acid in the bird's drinking water can increase the levels of antibiotics in the blood.

*In humans tetracycline and its derivatives are generally an effective treatment for Chlamydia.

Diagnosis: Fecal analysis, blood analysis, immunoflourescent testing, as well as PCR and nested PCR testing are excellent tool to help determine a Chlamydial infection.

Sample: When testing individual birds, a whole blood sample is recommended in conjunction with a cloacal and/or throat swab when possible. If the sample tests positive the bird should be placed in quarantine and treatment should be begun immediately.

Postmortem swabs or samples of liver, spleen, or kidney tissue in a sterile container may also be submitted.

Environmental testing using swabs of aviaries, countertops, fans, air-filters, nest-boxes, etc. is extremely effective in determining the presence of Chlamydia psittaci DNA in the environment.

Handling: Prior to shipping samples should be stored at 4 C. (refrigerator). Samples must be shipped in a padded envelope or box. Samples may be sent by regular mail, but overnight is recommended.
Limitations:
References:
 
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