Haemoproteus Columbae in Birds | Lifecycle of the disease, Symptoms, and Treatment

It has been seen that doves and pigeons are nearly 50% of the birds that are kept as pets for display, entertainment, and hobby. However, one of the major health issues with pigeons is parasitic infections which in turn affects growth, weight gain, egg production, and immunity.

Intro Video - Backtobirds x
Intro Video - Backtobirds

 In severe cases of parasitic infections, the pigeons may die. Haemoproteus Columbae in birds is a common parasite that is found in over 120 avian species.

What is Haemoproteus Columbae?

Haemoproteus spp is the most common type of blood parasite that is found in birds. It is a protozoan disease, similar to malaria. It is mosquito-born. 

It is more frequently found in non-domestic birds. More than 120 species of birds have been reported to have Haemoproteus spp including poultry like turkeys, ducks, and quails.

Is Haemoproteus Columbae In Pigeon Deadly?

Basically, this is a blood parasite that is more prominently found to infect pigeons in tropical countries. The single-cell protozoa infect the pigeons through mosquitos, tabanid flies, and louse flies. The infection is generally termed pseudo-malaria as the blood parasite is similar to the plasmodium that causes malaria in humans. 

If left untreated, the afflicted pigeons will die. However, in adult pigeons, it is non-pathogenic or does not cause disease or death. 

Related Read: Where Do Pigeons Go To Die?

What Are the Symptoms Of Haemoproteus Columbae Disease?

Pigeons that are unwell fluff up and are lethargic. Additionally, the signs and symptoms to look out for when the birds are afflicted with Haemoproteus Columbae Disease are depression, neck twisting, diarrhea, anorexia, listlessness, circling motion, and dyspnea. 

How Is Pigeon Malaria Diagnosed?

If you see that some pigeons in the loft seem unwell, it is important not to ignore them but seek the assistance of an avian veterinarian. Usually, after checking the symptoms and signs of the pigeons, they will prescribe blood smears, PCR tests, and other bloodwork. 

Often histopathology and tissue cytology are advised.  

What is the Haemoproteus Columbae life cycle?

The parasite (sporozoites) is present in the glands of the flies and mosquitoes. Once the mosquito or fly bites the pigeons, the pathogen is transferred to the bloodstream of the pigeons. The parasite invades the lung, spleen, and liver tissues. With controlled asexual reproduction of the sporozoites, it leads to the production of schizonts within the tissues. If no treatment is given, the infection increases. 

The schizonts in turn produce merozoites that infect the red blood cells. If a mosquito or louse fly bites the infected pigeon and then bites a healthy young pigeon, the infection spreads effectively. And the infection cycle continues and more pigeons become sick. 

How Is the Treatment Of Haemoproteus Columbae Done?

Although there is no approved drug for commercial use as required in the treatment Of Haemoproteus Columbae, anti-malaria drugs do help in reducing the symptoms. However, it does not eliminate the parasite. It has been seen that Quinacrine, primaquine, Chloroquine, and buparvaquone have been effective as a treatment of avian malarian in pigeons. Asymptomatic birds do not need to be treated.  

There are measures to keep the infection at bay by isolating the infected birds, screening lofts for any ill bird, and maintaining hygiene. This can prevent heavy infections in lofts. 

Illness can spread fast but with anti-malaria medications, the symptoms can be controlled. The birds become alert, active, and start eating. Thus, it is important to consult with a veterinarian. 

Can humans get Haemoproteus Columbae?

No, humans are not infected by Haemoproteus Columbae. It mainly affects pigeons and some other nondomestic bird species. 

Conclusion

Haemoproteus Columbae is a protozoan disease found in birds, especially pigeons. The disease is like malaria and is spread by blood-sucking insects like mosquitoes and fleas. 

Since it can adversely affect the health of your pigeons, it is important to keep screening your pigeon flock for symptoms of the disease and isolate any sick birds so that the infection doesn’t spread to other birds.

Leave a Comment