Coxiella-like infection in psittacines and a toucan

H L Shivaprasad, M. B. Cadenas, Santiago S Diab, R. Nordhausen, D. Bradway, R. Crespo, E. B. Breitschwerdt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Seven psittacine birds and a toucan (Ramphastos toco) were diagnosed as infected with Coxiella-like bacteria, based on polymerase chain reaction and bacterial 16S rRNA gene sequence obtained from each bird's liver tissue. Most of the birds exhibited lethargy and weakness for several days prior to death. Gross lesions included mild to moderate emaciation and severely enlarged and mottled pale livers and spleens. Microscopically, there was multifocal necrosis of hepatocytes with infiltration of a mixed population of inflammatory cells, including lymphocytes, heterophils, plasma cells, and macrophages randomly scattered throughout in most birds. In several birds within the macrophages there were vacuoles containing basophilic small cocco-bacilli organisms measuring about 0.5-1 μm. The spleens had increased numbers of mononuclear phagocytic system cells, some of which had vacuoles that contained similar organisms, as observed in the liver. There was inflammation in the epicardium and endocardium, interstitium of the lungs, kidney, adrenal and thyroid glands, lamina propria of the intestine, and in occasional birds in the brain, bursa of Fabricius, and bone marrow associated with similar organisms in the macrophages. Transmission electron microscopy of the liver and lungs in most birds and in the thyroid glands of one bird revealed pleomorphic round to elongated bacteria measuring about 0.45 μm in diameter and more than 1.0 μm in length. Most of these organisms contained a peripheral zone of loosely arranged electron dense material that was located immediately beneath a trilaminar membrane. Occasional organisms contained nucleoids. This is the first documentation of disease presumptively associated with Coxiella-like bacteria in birds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)426-432
Number of pages7
JournalAvian Diseases
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • Avian
  • Coxiella
  • Hepatitis
  • Psittacines
  • Splenitis
  • Toucan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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