Pigeon Rota Virus

 Current disease outbreak in Victoria.Update 5th May 2017The RSPCA released today a statement on Rota virus and racing for 2117. Please see below    RSPCA NSW WARNING: PROPOSED PIGEON RACING WILL SPREAD DEADLY ROTAVIRUS

Latest Update - 27 August 2017

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Swollen eyelids.

We have a diagnosis. Two fanciers from two different Melbourne federations brought 4 birds affected with this problem to our clinic in Melbourne. The standard diagnostic pathway was followed to investigate this type of problem. The birds were anaesthetised and the following samples collected and tests done.

1/ Blood was drawn for complete biochemistry ( organ function tests ) and haematology ( red and white blood cell tests). All biochemistry tests were normal. In particular the liver tests, GLDH ( which rises when the liver is actively inflamed ) and bile acids ( this test rises when the liver is not working properly ) were both normal. This was pleasing as it is the liver that is targeted for damage by Rota virus. The haematology was normal except one type of white blood cell called a lymphocyte was low. The number of lymphocytes present becomes low with either chronic stress or long term infections that deplete lymphocyte numbers.

2/ Chlamydia Immunocomb test . This test measures the level of Chlamydial antibodies in the blood. An elevated level indicates either an active or recent infection due to Chlamydia. The level was elevated

22/ Chlamydial PCR.  A swab was taken from the underside of the eyelids and tested. This test measures Chlamydial DNA. A positive result indicates active infection. The test was negative.

4/  Bacterial culture. For this test a swab was also collected from the underside of the eyelid. Any bacteria present were cultured ( grown ) and identified. No bacteria of any significance were found.

5/ Mycoplasma PCR. Another swab from the eyelid was taken and used to test for Mycoplasma DNA. This test was positive.

6/ Conjunctival biopsy. Small tissue samples were collected from the inflamed membrane lining the eyelids ( called the conjunctiva ) and examined microscopically. The tissue contained a severe lymphocyte infiltrate ( a type of inflammation ) consistent with a Mycoplasma infection.

7/ The Mycoplasma detected on PCR is being sequenced to identify what type of Mycoplasma it is. Some Mycoplasmas can occur in the eye quite normally and not cause disease. The pathologist however feels that because the conjunctiva displays the typical inflammation associated with a Mycoplasma infection that this is likely to be a disease causing Mycoplasma.

All samples were collected at the Melbourne Bird Veterinary Clinic. All tests were performed by specialists at the University of Melbourne and AgriBio.

So it appears that the problem is Mycoplasma. Mycoplasma was detected in the eye and the pattern of inflammation present was typical of a Mycoplasma infection. Other tests ruled out other problems. It appears that the tested birds had had an earlier Chlamydial infection . This is probably an incidental finding and not related to the current health problem. Most Mycoplasmas are sensitive to either doxycycline, tylosin or both. Fanciers should therefore find that affected birds  respond well to treatment with either of these antibiotics. Indeed early reports from fanciers advise that this is the case. A commonly used preparation is Doxy T that contains both of these medications. Birds should be treated for at least 3 days while some lofts may need to be treated for 5 – 7 days.

Is this swollen eyelid problem associated with Rota virus?

Mycoplasmosis ( the disease caused by Mycoplasma) is a common disease. It is one of the causes of respiratory infection and  ‘eye colds’ in young pigeons, particularly in the post weaning time. It is unusual however for Mycoplasma to cause this type of disease in large numbers of race age birds that are being looked after well. Usually by the time birds are old enough to race they have formed a good immunity to Mycoplasma and  disease is only seen in birds that are not being cared for well. So what we have is a common disease behaving in an uncommon way. Is this related to Rota virus? Basically, we just don’t know. It may be coincidental that this outbreak of readily infectious Mycoplasma disease has occurred in many Melbourne lofts in different federations in the same year as the Rota virus outbreak. It is just as likely however that the problem is related to Rota virus. Many of the pigeons currently beginning their racing careers were infected with Rota  virus when they were young. The resultant disease may have caused a check in their development and interfered with their ability to develop normal levels of immunity as they have grown. This is known to occur with other problems that interfere with health during growth such as severe parasitism and poor nutrition . As further cases are examined the situation will become clearer.

Visits to the Rota Virus Update

Since the beginning of the year there have been an incredible 424,000 visits or hits to this Rota Virus Update. The number continues to rise each month. Last month recorded the highest number with 88,000 hits during July. I have had a number of fanciers mention to me that they have read the site but I was surprised by this high number of visits. Still, its pleasing to think that a good number of fanciers think that the site is ,in fact ,worth visiting.

What is happening with the vaccine?

Basically we are in a “paper work” stage. Charles Hider, a Melbourne fancier who races with the VHA and is the Board’s solicitor is finalising contracts and agreements with Latrobe University and AgriBio. Dr Travis Beddoe is getting the final details of the vaccine manufacturing process to Dr Mark White at Tredlia Biovet in Sydney. Dr Dale Swanpoel, regulatory affairs officer at Treidlia Biovet is preparing an APVMA application to distribute the vaccine. These things take time. Everyone working on the vaccine is hopeful that the vaccine will be available before the end of the year.


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