By Dr.

New test to diagnose race unit respiratory infection

Fanciers should be aware of a new diagnostic test that has become available to vets to accurately and quickly test fancier’s birds for Chlamydial respiratory infection.  Chlamydia typically causes a respiratory infection in pigeons. Caught in the race units, it is a common cause of loss of form.

Developed in Europe the test became available in Australia this year. The test uses an antigen (infectious organism protein) detection technique. Samples such as throat mucous, an eye swab or droppings that may contain Chlamydia are collected from a suspect bird. These are mixed with a sequence of extraction fluids. Several drops of the resultant supernatant are placed on a test window. From here the fluid diffuses onto a test paper impregnated with a colour coded Chlamydial antibody (substance formed by the body to fight infection). If antigen is present this reacts with the antibody and a coloured line appears (similar to a pregnancy diagnosis test). A separate control test colour line also appears to indicate that the test has been done correctly.  The total test takes about ten minutes.

Prior to this if veterinarians suspected a Chlamydial infection and wanted to accurately confirm the diagnosis either:

  1. Blood samples had to be collected and checked for Chlamydial antibodies. This test is still very useful but takes four hours and fails to detect acute infections (which is often the case in freshly infected race birds) because of insufficient time for them to produce antibodies in response to the infection or
  2.  A throat or eye swab or blood was collected and sent to a lab for a test called a PCR which detects Chlamydial DNA. This test is also still very useful and very accurate but has the disadvantage of taking several days to get a result.


Prompt accurate diagnosis is important, particularly during the race season, for obvious reasons and so I am sure this new test will be used more and more. Similar tests are also available for Salmonella, PMV, Adenovirus and Hexamita. Ask your avian vet about them. 

New fertility drug

A new medication used to increase fertility in birds was introduced to the Australian avian veterinary community at this year’s annual avian veterinarian conference in Melbourne. The new drug, Buserelin belongs to a group of drugs called gonadotrophin releasing hormones. This means it stimulates the release of hormones that in turn stimulate the gonads.  In cocks this means it leads to increased testosterone production and enlargement of the testes. In birds as the testes get bigger, sperm production increases, improving the cock’s ability to fertilise eggs.  This drug will be particularly useful in getting a few extra youngsters from healthy older cocks who have declining fertility as a result of normal ageing.  Usually a single injection is given but sometimes a second injection is given ten days later. The product is prescription only and so fanciers should contact their avian veterinarian for advice.