Sarcocystis calchasi Outbreak in Feral Rock Pigeons (Columba livia) in California

Aslı Mete, Krysta H. Rogers, Rebecca Wolking, Daniel S. Bradway, Terra Kelly, Melanie Piazza, Beate Crossley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Twenty-two feral rock pigeons (Columba livia) from 10 counties in California with ataxia, torticollis, and difficulty standing and flying were admitted to rehabilitation centers in late winter and spring of 2017 and died or were euthanized. Common necropsy findings included thin body condition, generalized deep red discoloration of organs, and hemorrhagic subcutaneous neck tissues. Meningoencephalitis was observed microscopically in 16 pigeons, and 3 also had protozoal schizonts in the brain. The most consistently affected regions of the brain were cerebellum and brainstem. Skeletal muscles, and less frequently the heart, contained large intrasarcoplasmic bradyzoites typically without inflammation. Fifteen of the 22 birds tested positive using pan-Sarcocystis polymerase chain reaction. The sequence of the amplicon was most closely related to S. calchasi, and the 8 subtyped sequences had 100% homology with S. calchasi. This investigation demonstrated the transcontinental and North American spread of S. calchasi causing a disease outbreak in free-ranging rock pigeons, thus warranting increased surveillance in susceptible native columbids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalVeterinary Pathology
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


  • encephalitis
  • feral
  • muscle cyst
  • neurologic
  • outbreak
  • protozoa
  • rock pigeon
  • Sarcocystis calchasi
  • wildlife

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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