Infections and diseases caused by pet birds (Zoonoses in pet birds): microorganisms involved, impaired of people and microbiological diagnosis in IVAMI


Information 15-09-2016.


The term designates pet birds in cages and birds bred for ornamental use only. These birds are often passerine group, also called songbirds, such as canaries (canaries), finches (finches), or sparrow (sparrows). Another common group are psittacine, curved beak, such as budgies (parakeets, burgerigars), parrots (parrots), macaws, birds of -inseparables- love (love birds - Agapornis spp.-) or cockatoos Australian crested small (cocktail - Nymphicus hollandicus -). These birds can be carriers and transmitters of zoonotic diseases, some with significant impact on human health, such as clamidofilosis (infections Chlamydophila psittaci), salmonellosis (infection by different serotypes of Salmonella enterica subsp. Enterica, or avian tuberculosis Mycobacterium avium, among other reasons as discussed below.


bacterial diseases


  • Clamidofilosis (chlamydiosis, psittacosis , when affects psitácidas-, ornitosis -when affects people- or other birds, parrots or fever)

This condition is caused by an intracellular gram - negative bacterium, Chlamydophila psittaci (formerly Chlamydia psittaci), which is multiplied in the cell cytoplasm as reticulate bodies, after replication are condensed as elemental bodies which are released by rupture the host cell to infect new cells. 7 genotypes of this bacterium (A to F and EB) based on the differences in the ompA gene sequence currently known. This disease is called psittacosis because parrots are most commonly infected birds and from these people become infected more frequently. However, in songbirds are not free of infection, the infection being described in 465 species of birds belonging to 30 different orders, with at least 153 psittacine species. In U.S.A. birds most affected are turkeys, pigeons and parrots. In Europe most affected they are ducks and geese.


The first description of a person infection by this bacterium corresponded to a vet who accidentally infected from infected turkeys; the second description was of a study by the University of Ghent who noted a high percentage of human infection owners and veterinarians working in poultry farms of parrots.


This infection is transmitted by direct contact with birds that eliminate the elementary bodies of C. psittaci for their nasal secretions and feces with, which are highly infectious and resistant to external environmental conditions. Fecal contaminated dust is the most important infecting element. The removal can not be continuous but sporadic, sometimes induced stress. Carrier status can last for years. The organism survives drying secretions and stool, which facilitates environmental and clothes or equipment contamination. It can be transmitted bird-bird, bird-person and person-person. The most likely to become infected people are those who have contacts with birds, as are the owners of pet birds, poultry farmers especially parrots, plant workers cuts of turkeys, workers zoos where birds, veterinarians, assistants are to bird fairs, visitors from pet shops or occasional cases customs officials who control their importation, as occurred in Antwerp Custom Office, ...


The incubation period is from the transmission 4 to 15 days (10 days). Infected birds suffer from diarrhea, cough, nasal and eye discharge, although they may be asymptomatic or evolve fatally. In infected persons manifestations range from mild respiratory signs to severe pneumonia, but can also affect other organs and manifest diarrhea, conjunctivitis, arthritis patients or genital involvement. Most often febrile respiratory process, sudden onset with chills, myalgia, arthralgia, headache, cough, anorexia and chest pain. Children, the elderly and immunocompromised may develop a more serious illness. The birds are treated with clorotetraciclinas for 45 days, but the pigeons and turkeys require prolonged treatment. People in treatment is carried out for 21 days.


When birds are parasitized by the mite Dermanyssus gallinae, they can also transmit it .


  • salmonellosis

It has been isolated Salmonella spp. paseriformes or several psittacine birds, sometimes associated with other clinical signs and in its absence (carriers). When the birds show clinical signs have diarrhea, anorexia, dehydration or multisystem disease, including septicemia or osteomyelitis. Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica Serov. typhimurium described in passerine birds with granulomas in the liver, spleen or blind. In some cases it has been transmitted to people, so care must be taken when handling excreta of these birds. Also described transmission mite Dermanyssus gallinae. In humans, after orofecal transmission, the incubation period may be from 6 to 72 hours (12-36), demonstrating a box gastroenteritis with diarrhea, vomiting and a mild fever. In some cases progresses spread resulting in high fever, with headache, splenomegaly and septicemia. They can lead to focal infections in any organ including kidneys, joints, meninges, heart or bone periosteum.


  • Tuberculosis

Mycobacterial species most commonly isolated birds are Mycobacterium avium and Mycobacterium genavense. In birds, Mycobacterium avium causes avian tuberculosis, a chronic debilitating disease with granulomatous nodules. Infected birds are depressed, thin, weak and sometimes diarrhea. During infection remove large amounts of the bacteria to the environment. It is believed that people become infected from the environment, although it is not clear. Preferably it occurs in immunosuppressed. Those affected lose weight, usually manifest abdominal pain, diarrhea and fatigue.


In humans, Mycobacterium avium can cause local wound infection with involvement of regional lymph nodes. In immunosuppressed can cause a disease spread by ingestion of food or water contaminated with bird feces. It is a difficult infection to treat tuberculosis.


The species Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes human tuberculosis, has rarely been found in birds. Some cases have been reported in New York and Switzerland in green - winged macaw (Ara chloroptera) suffering from symptoms of tuberculosis (lethargy, osteomyelitis, granulomatous panniculitis and granulomatous hepatitis). In both cases the owners were suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis with positive sputum culture and said they had close contact with birds such as feed mouth-peak. These birds lived long enough so that they could be a source of infection for others. Apart from these cases, we know, only we described the case of an infected with Mycobacterium truberculosis canary.


  • Campylobacteriosis (Campylobacter spp.)

Campylobacteriosis is the most common zoonosis in the European Union. Campylobacter spp., Campylobacter jejuni and in particular, is responsible for foodborne illness (food-borne), manifested by gastroenteritis (diarrhea and vomiting). Campylobacter spp. It is eliminated by wide variety of pet birds, songbirds and parrots, as well as migratory birds, which are considered to be reservoir and can cause infection of people and other animals, such as domestic.


  • Q fever (Coxiella burnetii; Query fever)

Coxiella burnetii is an intracellular bacterium endemic throughout the world. The acute form is usually a self - limited disease fever, often associated with pneumonitis or hepatitis. This bacterium has been found in birds, rodents, marsupials, fish and even arthropods, as more than 40 species of hard and soft ticks, lice, mites and parasitic flies. Cattle, sheep and goats are considered the major reservoir for transmission to people. Exposing people to delivery of dogs and cats is considered a risk factor. Infected animals eliminate bacteria in urine and feces, preferably being located in the uterus and mammary glands, reaching a very large number in the placenta. It may be present in soil for months. Inhalation of contaminated aerosols is considered the main mechanism of human transmission, and the intake of fresh milk. Also described vertical transmission during pregnancy, the person-person transmission, contamination when performing animal autopsies, or even to crush a tick between the fingers. Regarding pet birds have been reported outbreaks pollution from pigeons.


  • Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato)

Different strains of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato were isolated from hard ticks collected from songbirds in different parts of the world, including Europe.


By experimental infection it has been found that canaries inoculated quickly develop a mild spirochetemia without clinical symptoms or very few. This suggests that passerine birds would be minor as a reservoir of amplification Lyme borreliosis. No parrots found infected with Borrelia burgdorferi.


In addition, ticks are easily detected in the feathers of pet birds, so that they retire, reducing the potential for transmission of these tick bites people.


Therefore, it is considered that there is no risk of transmission of Lyme borreliosis pet bird people, and in any case the birds could act as carriers of infected ticks away.


  • other bacteria

We found in many gram - negative bacteria of human pathogenic bird company, such as:. Pasteurella spp, Klebsiella spp, Yersinia spp, Pseudomonas spp, Escherichia coli, including E. coli O157:... Paseiformes H7 transmitted to cattle and birds from these introduced into the food chain. It has not been demonstrated transmission from birds to people.


viral diseases


Viral infections with possible human transmission are not common in pet birds unless they are kept in kennels outside where they can contact with infected migratory birds or other domesticated birds that have been infected with those. Viruses transmitted by birds to people are those listed below, and as mentioned have been through exposure to wild birds, free - living, or through those infected by domestic fowl.


  • Avian influenza (Influenza A H1N1, H7N9, H9N2).
  • Arboviruses by Usutu virus (flavivirus transmitted by Culex pipiens, which has entered Europe and has been described in several countries).
  • Newcastle disease (avian paramyxovirus).
  • West Nile fever (West Nile fever virus).

fungal diseases


  • Histoplasmosis (Histoplasma capsulatum).

This fungus prefers to grow in contaminated with excreta of birds or bats, as in the caves inhabited by bats (caves disease) soils. Histoplasmosis Histoplasma capsulatum can be transmitted by breathing dust contaminated feces of birds or bats. Birds or bats are not affected. They may be involved many types of animals such as dogs, cats, cattle, sheep, horses and wild animals. In those described three forms of involvement of lungs acute, cavitary pulmonary and disseminated. The pulmonary form water is a flu - like syndrome several weeks with fever, chills, malaise, nonproductive cough and chest pain. Cavitary pulmonary tuberculosis is similar with cough, purulent expectoration, weight loss and respiratory distress. In the disseminated form, which occurs in young people and the elderly, it appears enlarged liver and spleen. Children, the elderly and immunocompromised are most susceptible. The native birds where this fungus is endemic, such as North, Central and South America could be infected with the fungus and transmitted to people through their droppings. In the event that pet birds they came from those places must be considered possible infection by this fungus.


  • Cryptococcosis (Cryptococcus neoformans).

This fungus thrives in poultry manure enriched soil. It is rare that affects birds, but they can transmit it . It can affect people, horses, dogs and cats, among others. Cryptococcus neoformans found in canaries, parakeets, parrots, cockatoos Australian crested, birds -inseparables- love (Agapornis spp.). Land birds is transmitted by ingestion of yeast. Birds people can be transmitted by inhalation or cutaneous inoculation of yeast in the dried excreta of birds, like those can be found in the pigeon nests. Pet birds kept abroad could spread from the excreta of pigeons. People become infected by breathing dry excrement contaminated or inserted into the skin by skin trauma. When inhaled causes similar to pneumonia with fever, cough, chest pain and breathlessness clinical picture. If spreads can cause a meningeal box with neck stiffness and visual disturbances. Actually it is not a zoonosis because the reservoir is soil and not the birds that ingest and remove the feces.


  • Microsporidiosis (Microsporidia).

Microsporidia are unicellular, obligate intracellular fungi that infect vertebrates and invertebrates. Infections have been reported in both immunosuppressed and immunocompromised. Of the 8 species found in people, some are considered emerging as Enterocytozoon bineusi, Encepahalytozoon intestinalis, Encephalytozoon Hellem and Encephalytozoon cuniculi.


Enterocytozoon bineusi and Encephalytozoon intestinalis cause chronic diarrhea in immunosuppressed and self - limited diarrhea in immunocompetent. Encephalytozoon Hellem and Encephalytozoon cuniculi found causing eye infections or disseminated in immunosuppressed.


All species that affect people found in birds. They were first described in 1975 in "inseparable" psittacine (Love birds, Agapornis personta, Family psittaculidae) from Africa. Encephalytozoon Hellem is considered a primary host of birds. In birds in captivity causes microsporidiasis described in parakeets (budgerigars, budgerigar) in 1997. Since then it has been described in many species of parrots. They have also been described in psittacine Enterocytozoon bieneusi and Encephalytozoon cuniculi. Infection in birds manifests with unspecific signs such as depression, decreased appetite, weight loss and diarrhea, sometimes conjunctivitis and keratitis. Some die without symptoms.


Protozoal diseases


  • Giardiasis.

They described several species of Giardia in birds (ardeae G., G. psittaci), but to our knowledge, these species are not transmitted to people.


  • Cryptosporidiosis.

Cryptosporidiosis by several species of Cryptosporidium (C. meleagridis, C. baileyi, C. galli, C. parvum) has been found in more than 30 species of birds, including parrots in, which can cause gastroenteritis with diarrhea. Some of these species have been found in cases of diarrheal illness in people. Of abdominal pain, nausea and watery diarrhea for 3 to 4 day appears in infected individuals. In immunocompromised may cause persistent severe diarrhea accompanied by malabsorption and weight loss. The infection is transmitted by fecal-oral route via the faeces oocysts.


  • Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma gondii).

Sometimes described Toxoplasma gondii regarding pet birds. Indeed, it can be found in pet birds as a result of eating contaminated food oocysts, causing an infection in them. However, in the intestines of birds not the sexual cycle involves removal of oocysts in faeces, thus there is no risk of transmission by this route occurs. Nor is there the risk of acquiring infection through ingestion of tissue cysts, because these birds can not eat. Therefore, we believe that there is no risk of transmission of Toxoplasma gondii pet bird people.

Allergic alveolitis (lung caregivers pigeons - pigeon Lung - breeder's; lung caregivers -birds breeder's Lung - birds; pneumoconiosis dander parakeets -budgerigar dander pneumoconiosis-; Birds fancier's lung).


This condition should be considered in the differential diagnosis of a possible infectious disease supposedly transmitted by pet birds, because does not correspond to an infection, but to a box hypersensitivity (hypersensitivity pneumonitis) type III due to development of precipitating antibodies, by reacting with the triggering antigen level pulmonary alveoli causes inflammation in the lung, which if cronifica can lead to pulmonary fibrosis. The table is triggered by exposure to proteins present in birds feathers, dandruff or dry stools. It can be triggered by birds like pigeons, parakeets, cockatoos, parrots, pigeons, turkeys or chickens.


Clinical signs are due to reduced lung capacity due to hypersensitivity feathers, dander or dust causing fecal alveolar inflammation. This condition may occur acutely, subacute or chronic. The acute form is triggered at 4 to 6 hours in a sensitized person product of birds have been exposed, such as when a cage or a pigeon is cleaned. Symptoms appear soon after exposure, even at minimum amounts of feathers, dander or dried feces, presenting a clinical picture with fever, chills, shortness of breath, cough and chest no discomfort. When exposure ceases the patient improves. The chronic form that can develop in two years or even after 10 or 20 years of repeated exposure is more severe, characterized by non - productive chronic cough, exercise intolerance and weight loss and progressive interstitial fibrosis. This form can lead to permanent lung damage, including pulmonary fibrosis, with reduction of gas exchange in the alveoli and lung capacity, which eventually can be fatal. The severity of the condition can be reduced using masks when cages are cleaned daily cleaning for performing a non feathers, dandruff or dry feces accumulate, bathing birds frequently and providing facilities air purifiers.


Causes of diseases transmitted by pet birds as the main location of involvement


Then we relate infections or diseases as the main manifestations:


Diseases caused by bird flu manifestation company (Influenza-like) or pulmonary symptoms


    • Clamidofilosis (psittacosis, ornithosis, parrot fever) (Chlamydophila psittaci).
    • Histoplasmosis (Histoplasma capsulatum).
    • Pulmonary cryptococcosis (Cryptococcus neoformans).
    • Mycobacteriosis (Mycobacterium avium, Mycobacterium genavense, ...)
    • Q fever (Coxiella burnetii).
    • Flu (Influenza A subtypes several). Rare birds if not kept in kennels outside.
    • Newcastle disease (paramyxovirus). Rare birds if not kept in kennels outside.
    • West Nile fever (West Nile fever virus). Rare birds if not kept in kennels outside.
    • Allergic alveolitis (type III hypersensitivity feathers, dandruff, dry bird droppings).

Produced by pet birds with gastrointestinal disease manifestation


    • Salmonellosis (Salmonella enterica subsp. Enterica serovars several).
    • Campylobacteriosis (Campylobacter spp.).
    • Cryptosporidiosis (Cryptosporidium spp.).

Pet birds caused by diseases with cutaneous manifestation


    • Pasteurellosis (Pasteurella spp.).
    • Erysipeloid (Erysipelothrix rhusiopatiae).
    • Cryptococcosis (Cryptococcus neofomans).
    • Dermatitis mites (avian dermatitidis mites) (Dermanyssus gallinae, Ornithonyssus sylvarium).
    • Mycobacteriosis nontuberculous (Mycobacterium spp).

Tests in IVAMI:


  • Molecular detection (PCR) according to the microorganism or suspected clinical manifestations.

Recommended sample:


  • Respiratory processes: deep respiratory sample, sputum or nasopharyngeal (viral infections).
  • Gastrointestinal processes: stool sample.
  • Skin conditions : samples of exudate from a skin lesion.


Preservation and shipment of sample:


  • Refrigerated (preferred) for less than 2 days.
  • Frozen: over 2 days.


Cost of the test: