Aspergillosis infection fungus avian macaws parrots

While aspergillosis can affect any species of birds, several parrot species including macaws, African greys, and amazons are predisposed.

Just like humans, birds can experience fungal infections too! Aspergillosis is a common fungal infection in pet birds that impacts both the upper respiratory tract (eyes, sinuses, nose, and trachea) and lower respiratory tract (lungs and air sacs). This infection is caused by opportunistic fungi from Aspergillus spp., and can be challenging to identify and resistant to treatment. Consequently, it is important for any bird owner to be aware of signs of this difficult-to-diagnose disease.

Aspergillosis is painful for your feathery friend and if left untreated can result in serious health complications and death. If you suspect your bird has aspergillosis, bring your pet to your exotic veterinarian as soon as possible.

What Causes Avian Aspergillosis?

While only a small percentage of known Aspergillus spp. are associated with aspergillosis manifestation in pet birds, A. flavus is identified as the most prevalent aspergillosis-associated fungus (present in 95% of cases) [1]. Several species have also been reported in affected birds, including A. terreus, A. versicolor, A. oryzae, A. nidulans, A. amstelodami, A. glaucus, and A. nigrescens [1]. Notably, mixed infections in parrots with A. fumigatus and A. oryae have been reported, which could have substantial implications for treatment approaches [1].

Aspergillus spp. live and feed on dead organic matter, and are found in soil, decomposing organic matter, household dust, building materials, plants, food, and water [2]. These opportunistic fungi are transmitted through spores, and are not contagious [2]. Because these microorganisms are capable of both acute and chronic presentations, providing proper standards of avian husbandry in low-stress environments is key to reducing transmission rates [3].

Learn more about proper avian husbandry here.

What are the Symptoms of Avian Aspergillosis?

Avian aspergillosis can be either acute or chronic. Chronic aspergillosis more often impacts older birds and progresses slowly [4]. This causes symptom presentation to be vague and difficult to identify, which allows the disease to go unidentified for an extended period of time. Advanced stages associated with chronic aspergillosis have poor outcomes [4]. Contrastingly, acute aspergillosis often occurs in younger parrots, and is caused by an overwhelming concentration of fungal spores [1]. Acute aspergillosis is rapidly progressing and requires immediate intervention, but has better outcomes [1]. Risk factors for avian aspergillosis infections include stress, environmental conditions, inappropriate husbandry, nutritional deficiencies, immunosuppression, trauma, long-term antibiotic use, pre-existing conditions, corticosteroid use, and more [5].

Clinical presentation of avian aspergillosis is impacted by the infection load, stress, age, and location of the infection [5]. It is important to know the clinical presentation of the disease when symptoms arise, as early intervention is critical. Symptoms vary greatly depending on the extent of the infection, and include but are not limited to:

  • Weight loss
  • Tail bobbing
  • Fluffed feathers
  • Open beak breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness
  • Enlarged nostrils and/or discharge
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Photophobia
  • Ocular discharge and/or cloudy appearance in the eye
  • Paralysis

Parrots aspergillosis infection fungus diagnosis symptoms treatment

African Greys are particularly susceptible to aspergillosis.

Avian Aspergillosis Treatment

Fortunately, avian aspergillosis is not a zoonotic disease, meaning that it cannot transfer to humans [2]. Your exotic pet veterinarian will test your feathery friend to determine the exact cause of your pet’s infection. Unfortunately, treatment for avian aspergillosis is particularly difficult due to immune responses that actually make it more challenging for drugs to access the fungal spores [5]. Treatment is a long process that may include oral, intravenous, topical, and aerosolized antifungal medication, and may also require surgical removal of fungal plaques [5]. Further supportive care may be necessary. Ultimately, prevention is best.

Your exotic bird veterinarian can help you identify possible lifestyle changes you and your bird can make to improve their quality of life and lessen the risk of avian aspergillosis infection. This entails understanding the exact pathogen that is impacting your bird, with modern technological advances allowing for more targeted clinical diagnostic interventions.

Diagnosing Avian Aspergillosis

Several different tests are required to properly diagnose your pet bird for aspergillosis. Historically, serologic antibody tests have been used for this purpose, but can have “false negative results because a healthy immune system is needed to mount antibody response, and many birds with aspergillosis have poorly functioning immune systems”[6]. Considering Aspergillus spores are common environmental contaminants, these spores often present to many healthy birds [6]. These birds can then make antibodies to Aspergillosis even if they are not actually infected, resulting in many false positives.

Fortunately, Next-Gen DNA sequencing (NGS) has increasingly helped researchers and veterinarians characterize avian microbiota, and presents a more accurate alternative to serology tests. These tests are able to identify the presence of Aspergillus DNA in blood or other tissues accurately and quickly, and are increasingly becoming the preferred method of avian fungal infection diagnostics.

Despite its name, the MiDOG All-in-One Microbial Test may provide the answer to the diagnostic conundrum that avian aspergillosis poses on your feathery friend. Utilizing NGS technology to detect and quantify all microbial DNA through untargeted and comprehensive sequencing and quantitative comparisons to reference databases, the MiDOG NGS technology provides a useful opportunity to shed light on the microbial makeup of your bird’s infection for clinical application. The MiDOG microbiome test is a microbial identification test grounded on scientific research that provides veterinarians DNA evidence for the guided treatment of fungal bird infections, such as aspergillosis.

Learn more tips in this extensive guide to parrot care.

 

597e61_01842904dc0d46dbb079c4c0f1d5ee1c~mv2

 

Find out if your vet uses MiDOG before you book your next appointment!

For health-related questions about your ferret or other exotic pet, reach out to a veterinarian that specializes in exotic pets.

References:

[1] Arné, P., Risco-Castillo, V., Jouvion, G., Le Barzic, C., & Guillot, J. (2021). Aspergillosis in Wild Birds. Journal of fungi (Basel, Switzerland), 7(3), 241. https://doi.org/10.3390/jof7030241

[2] Aspergillus spp Pathogen Safety Data Sheet. Public Health Agency of Canada

[3] Beernaert, L. A., Pasmans, F., Van Waeyenberghe, L., Haesebrouck, F., & Martel, A. (2010). Aspergillus infections in birds: a review. Avian pathology : journal of the W.V.P.A, 39(5), 325–331. https://doi.org/10.1080/03079457.2010.506210

[4] Mayer, J., & Huang, J. (2022). Avian Aspergillosis: What Every Veterinarian Needs to Know. Retrieved from https://todaysveterinarypractice.com/exotic-medicine/avian-aspergillosis/

[5] Hoppes, S. (2022). Mycotic Diseases of Pet Birds – Exotic and Laboratory Animals – MSD Veterinary Manual. Retrieved from https://www.merckvetmanual.com/exotic-and-laboratory-animals/pet-birds/mycotic-diseases-of-pet-birds

[6] Axelson, R., & Hess, L. (2022). Aspergillosis in Birds | VCA Animal Hospital. Retrieved from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/aspergillosis-in-birds


Categories: Birds/Parrots, Exotic Pets, Next-Gen DNA Sequencing Technology, Respiratory Infection, Skin Health

animal diagnostics

Validated by Veterinarians

“Clients expect their veterinarians to stay up to date on all matters that affect the health and well being of their non-human family members. The current technique that we have used to determine the presence and antibiotic sensitivity of organisms causing disease in our pets is over a century old.

With the emergence of dangerous antibacterial resistance, it is critical that veterinarians are able to offer laser focused diagnostics and treatment. MiDog enables us to offer care that exceeds the typical standard of care.”

Bernadine Cruz, DVM, Laguna Hills Animal Hospital Laguna Woods, CA

“I love the absolute abundance and comparing the fungal with bacterial infection. I do not worry as much about getting a false negative urinary infection reading as I do with traditional urine cultures. Several times the same urine would culture negative but MiDOG would detect pathogens.”

Michael Morgan, DVMQuail Animal Hospital, Tustin, CA

“The MiDOG All-in-One Test is amazing, I would use it instead of culture and sensitivity.  Such rapid and detailed results, I will reach for MiDOG before culture next time!

Thank you very much MiDOG, for sharing the opportunity to try your technology.”

Martha Smith-Blackmore, DVM, President of Forensic Veterinary Investigations, LLC – Boston, MA

The MiDOG All-in-One Microbial Test is our new gold standard of pathogen identification. The results are so accurate and valuable – especially with assessing both bacterial and fungal infections with the same sample.

Thank you MiDOG!”

Kathy Wentworth, DVM, Diplomate ABVP Canine and Feline Practice – PetPoint Medical Center, Irvine, CA

“The MiDOG staff was extremely helpful and supportive.”

Cathy Curtis, DVM – London, UK

“I have had great results using the MiDOG® Test. Compared to traditional culture tests, I am better able to target the treatment for dogs because the MiDOG® Test is so sensitive that it identifies all pathogens including bacteria and fungi, as well as antibiotic sensitivity.

The cost and turnaround time are about the same as a culture test, but I get much more data. The test has great performance and I believe the NGS technology will be a game changer for veterinarians treating dogs with lesions or other infections.”

Michael Kavanagh, DVM, Practice owner – Saddleback Animal Hospital, Tustin, CA

“It’s helpful to have an NGS spectrum because it gives you a broader insight of what’s happening and what might be going on.”

Richard Harvey BVSc DVD DipECVD PhD FRSB FRCVS – European Specialist in Veterinary Dermatology – Head of Dermatology, Willows Veterinary Centre & Referral Service – Solihull, England UK

“I have been using MiDog for over 4 years now and exclusively as my test of choice for all cultures for 3 years.  It is so great to submit a culture and feel confident there will be a result when it comes back, especially for urine cultures.  The reports were intimidating at first because they contain so much information.  After the first few, I am now quickly able to glance over it and pick out the highlights.  I can then come back later and pour over all the details.  I have been extremely pleased with my patients’ results using the test as well.  I don’t envision ever going back to traditional culture and susceptibilities again.”

Brian M. Urmson, DVM, Columbiana Veterinary Associates

“As an exotic veterinarian, there are numerous tests we have to consider to check specific bacterial and fungal organisms based on the species. MiDOG eliminates the need for many of these separate samples and provides definitive results quickly to help us treat our patients more efficiently and effectively. The lab is wonderful to work with and has never rejected our samples- they even processed a lizard toe we amputated and determined the cause of skin infection.”

Dr. Melissa Giese, Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital

“MiDOG’s diagnostic approach offers the unique ability to identify pathogens that evade traditional culture and sensitivity testing. I have found that adding a molecular based testing approach in the form of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) from MiDOG to my routine diagnostic cultures can be extremely helpful in the identification and diagnosis of uncommon pathogens in veterinary medicine.”

Dr. Wayne Rosenkrantz, Animal Dermatology Clinic – Tustin

“She [Dr. Krumbeck] really did a great job of making complicated concepts accessible and demonstrating the value of your services. I’m really looking forward to working with MiDOG on my research project!”

Dr. Yaicha Peters, Animal Dermatology Clinic – San Diego

“As a proud collaborator with MiDOG, I deeply appreciate their dedication to fostering partnerships between industry and veterinary experts. Their commitment to enhancing diagnostic quality for veterinarians is commendable. In my experience, their support has been invaluable, earning them a ‘Double A+, Triple Star’ rating. Their assistance has been faultless, contributing significantly to the success of my projects and studies. I eagerly anticipate our continued collaboration.”

Dr. Richard Harvey, BVSc DVD DipECVD PhD FRSB FRCVS; European Specialist in Veterinary Dermatology

“We’re seeing that, if we prescribe too many antibiotics or they’re taken too frequently, animals are developing inappropriate or pathogenic strains of bacteria. We’re also seeing that our antibiotics are just not working against them anymore… It’s a good example of why we need better diagnostic testing, like MiDOG, so that we’re selecting the correct antibiotic every time our patients have an infection.”

Dr. Alissa Rexo, DVM, CVA, DACVD, Mid-Atlantic Veterinary Dermatology