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Hannis L. Stoddard III, DMV
Aspergillosis is the most common fungal infection in birds caused
by aspergella fumigates. Although birds are commonly exposed to
the spores of this fungus, they develop the disease only under
certain conditions. If a bird's immune system is suppressed by a
concurrent illness, malnutrition or stress, it may become sick
after exposure. Stress-induced Aspergillosis is frequently seen
in birds subjected to surgery, reproduction, environmental
changes, capture, confinement or shipping.
Aspergella, as well as other fungi, grows readily in damp, dark
conditions with poor ventilation. Encrusted fecal matter, damp
feed, dirty feeding utensils and food that falls through cage
grates all encourage mold growth. Interestingly, we see a high
incidence of Aspergillosis in birds in the southwest where the
environment is dry and not conducive to fungal replication. The
speculation is the low humidity, coupled with the dusty
environment, interferes with the normal mucous secretion in the
birds' respiratory tracts and predisposes them to mycoses.
Two forms of Aspergillosis are commonly seen in Amazons. The
first is an acute generalized form characterized by the fungus in
the lower respiratory tree as well as in the intestinal tract and
other organs. Patients with this form of Aspergillosis exhibit
labored respiration, severe depression and extreme emaciation,
and are generally very ill. Unfortunately, the mortality rate is
exceptionally high in this form.
The second form is called a chronic localized form. This is the most
common type of infection seen in Amazons. This chronic Aspergillosis
tends to develop localized aspergellomas (pockets of fungal infection).
The location will determine the clinical signs. A common place for
aspergellomas to localize in Amazons is in the sinus cavity,
characterized by intermittent mucoid exudation.
Diagnosis of avian Aspergillosis can be difficult, at best, other
than by autopsy. Tentative diagnosis can be made with clinical
signs as well as the absence of bacterial infection in moist
exudates. A blood test showing an elevation in white blood cell
count, mild anemia and an elevation in the monocytes also
supports this diagnosis. X-rays should be taken on any suspect
patient-many times the radiograph will reveal densities or
nodules consistent with aspergellomas. Additionally, your avian
veterinarian should take samples and attempt to culture the
fungus in specially prepared culture media. Blood should also be
submitted for serologic evaluation.
Once a bird is diagnosed as having Aspergillosis, appropriate
treatment should be instituted by a qualified avian veterinarian.
Each treatment protocol has to be tailored to the individual
bird. A prerequisite for success is removing the concurrent
immunosuppression that exists. This can be accomplished by
management, by treating concurrent maladies and by the judicious
use of immunostimulants. Aggressive antifungal treatment is in
order, either localized or systemic. Surgery may be necessary
with certain localized Aspergellomas, while aggressive
nebulization and sinus flushings are warranted in certain other
cases. Additionally, a long-term treatment schedule should be
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