Molecular sub-typing suggests that the environment of rehabilitation centers may be a potential source of Aspergillus fumigatus infecting rehabilitating seabirds

Julia D. Burco, Kizee A. Etienne, J. Gregory Massey, Michael H Ziccardi, S. Arunmozhi Balajee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


Aspergillosis remains a major cause of infection-related avian mortality in birds that are debilitated and undergoing rehabilitation for release into the wild. This study was designed to understand the source of avian aspergillosis in seabirds undergoing rehabilitation at selected northern California aquatic bird rehabilitation centers. Air, surface and water sampling was performed between August 2007 and July 2008 in three such centers and selected natural seabird loafing sites. Average air Aspergillus fumigatus counts were at least nine times higher in samples obtained from the rehabilitation sites (M = 7.34, SD = 9.78 CFU/m 3), when compared to those found at natural sites (M = 0.76, SD = 2.24 CFU/m 3), t (205) = -5.99, P < 0.001. A total of 37 A. fumigatus isolates from birds with confirmed aspergillosis and 42 isolates from environmental samples were identified using both morphological and molecular methods, and subsequently sub-typed using an eight-locus microsatellite panel with the neighbor joining algorithm. Results of the study demonstrated the presence of five clonal groups, 13 genotypically related clusters, and 59 distinct genotypes. Six of the 13 genotypically related clusters contained matching genotypes between clinical isolates and local environmental isolates from the rehabilitation center in which these birds were housed. We present evidence that the environment of rehabilitation centers may be a source for A. fumigatus infection in rehabilitated seabirds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-98
Number of pages8
JournalMedical Mycology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012



  • A. fumigatus
  • Aspergillosis
  • avian
  • genotyping
  • microsatellite analysis
  • seabirds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)
  • Infectious Diseases

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