A Case Report of Avian Malaria (Plasmodium spp.) in Pen-Reared Pigeons (Columba livia)

Ana P. Da Silva, Simone Stoute, Ruediger Hauck, H. L. Shivaprasad, Carmen Jerry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One dead 6-wk-old male racing pigeon (Columba livia) was submitted for postmortem evaluation after presenting with weight loss, anorexia, dry shanks, dehydration, and lethargy. The bird belonged to a confined flock with 12 other pigeons raised by a hobbyist. Two pigeons in the flock reportedly had died with a history of similar clinical signs. On gross examination, the liver and the spleen were diffusely dark brown to black. Histopathology revealed moderate to large amounts of anisotropic, intracytoplasmic black pigment, compatible with hemozoin, in the spleen, liver, lung, and kidneys, with small amounts in the heart and meninges of the brain. Marked plasmacytic infiltrates were observed in liver, lungs, heart, and kidneys. Blood smears from a clinically affected concomitant pigeon from the flock revealed numerous light-blue, round to oval, intraerythrocytic trophozoites and meronts suggestive of Plasmodium spp. PCR and sequencing tests were performed from spleen and ceca with fragments of the 18S ribosomal RNA and the mitochondrial cytochrome b (cytB) genes. Sequencing results confirmed the presence of Plasmodium in the affected pigeon. Although an exact genetic match could not be determined, the most similar species to the isolate from this study are Plasmodium relictum, Plasmodium matutinum, Plasmodium lutzi, and Plasmodium homocircumflexum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-218
Number of pages6
JournalAvian diseases
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021


  • avian malaria
  • molecular characterization
  • pigeons
  • Plasmodium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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