In an ecosystem, avian species are the intermediate source and play a major role in the food chain.
Scavenger birds eat any dead animals, including animals that died from infections, and become the primary transmitters of infections to other habitats.
Toxoplasmosis is a protozoan parasite that transmits from the cat’s feces to the diverse ecosystem and affects birds, animals, and humans.
Understanding the parasite factors and their life-cycle can prevent transmission, emergence, and affecting other species in a natural environment.
This article describes the symptoms, treatment, and diagnosis of T. gondii in avian creatures and which bird species are prey for this deadly parasite.
What is toxoplasmosis in birds?
Toxoplasmosis is a zoonotic disease caused by the obligate single-celled protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii).
One of the prevalent food-borne parasites, which become a serious public health issue worldwide.
It can infect almost all cold-blooded species including birds (pigeons, parrots, canaries, etc), mammals, pets, and humans.
T. gondii is reportedly found in wild and domestic avian species and raptors.
Rappers are the prevalence of T. gondii infections from the habitat environment – because they hunt on cats, mammals, and other parasite hosts as prey.
T. gondii pathogens can cause alignment in the wild avian creatures and its seriousness depends on the host’s physical structure, environment, susceptibility, and the genotype / infective level of the pathogens.
These food-borne parasite traces can be found in all warm-blooded species and transmitted in an extensive range of environments, including mountain, marine, and vegetation ecosystems.
T. gondii protozoans have three infectious stages in their complex life-cycle.
Stage one is within the definitive host’s tissues, stage two is when the parasites are excreted in the feces and the third stage is when the protozoan is transmitted from hosts to their offsprings.
In mammals, transmission occurs via the consumption of infected tissues, contact with infective feces, and transmission from the mother in the womb.
What causes toxoplasmosis to the birds? How do the birds get T. gondii infection?
Eating and feeding habits play a vital role in controlling the exposure level to the protozoans in numerous avian species.
Birds get infected from the direct ingestion of oocysts present in the soil, plants, contaminated water, or insects.
Cats and their feline relatives are the definitive hosts in which T. gondii is sexually reproduced and serves as a foremost reservoir of parasites. They spread T. gondii infection to other animals and birds through oocysts produced in the small intestine.
The infected cats can shed millions of oocysts in their feces, and spread oocysts in the ecosystem, after which parasites get effectively transmitted between intermediate hosts and even in the absence of definite hosts.
Birds acquire T. gondii infections through the consumption of either sporulated oocysts found in the natural environment or hunting infected prey tissues.
It is true that these parasites are transmitted to birds and other animals along the food chain. This can lead to bio amplification.
Carnivorous birds, scavengers, and birds of prey are the important indicators of T. gondii and are easily exposed to the infection due to the agglomeration of the diseases along the food chain.
The abundance of the prey creatures and the predatory bird’s diet would influence the prevalence of the T-gondii in the ecosystem.
In the wild, many habitats including prey and other birds come in contact with one another – birds play a vital role in the epidemiology of parasites ( a suitable indicator of the prevalence of T. gondii).
What are the symptoms of T. gondii in birds?
T. gondii infected avian species are designated by disorders of the central nervous system, musculoskeletal (bones and muscles), reproductive organs, and visceral organs (organs of chest and stomach).
Birds undergo certain clinical symptoms such as inappetence, drop in egg production in females, shrunken comb, weight loss, whitish diarrhea, trembling, incoordination, torticollis (neck twisting), eye blindness, and opisthotonos ( it cause severe spasm when birds arches back).
T. gondii protozoan infects young birds before eight weeks of age and starts to develop clinical symptoms. But, in older birds, infections can be latent ( signs develop under only certain environmental conditions) or even be asymptomatic ( never shows any signs).
Researchers found that T. gondii affects the brain and retina (blindness) of the yellow canary, and even develops torticollis over 3 months of a bird’s age.
What is the treatment and prevention of Toxoplasmosis?
Veterinarians prescribe feed trimethoprim 0.08 g/ ml and sulfadiazine 0.04 g/ml in water for two weeks to treat T. gondii parasites in birds.
Another common treatment is to feed a regime for 3 weeks to birds.
Treatment should be started immediately after infection diagnosis and continued for several days as per veterinarian prescription to cure diseases.
In acute infections, the treatment and medication procedure is based on the antibody level in the infected birds.
Drugs and medicines are available in the market to suppress the parasite transmission within the host birds but those drugs will not eradicate the infection.
A good biosecurity environment and cleanliness control the transmission of parasites to other pets.
Pet animals and infants should be kept away from the parasitic host and also separate the uninfected and infected domestic birds to prevent further transmission.
Oocysts passed in infected feces hosts are resistant to detergents, alkalis, and acids.
The most effective methods to disinfect the parasites from the bird’s cages include drying, ammonia, heating (raising temperature up to 55 degrees Celsius for 24 hours), and steam cleaning.
For four weeks after the cleaning and disinfection process, the cages or carriers should remain empty before introducing to new birds
Related Read: Can You Feed Birds Bread? | Will Birds Eat Bread?
What birds can get toxoplasmosis? Do all birds get infections?
T-gondii is the prevalent parasitic infection among avian creatures (in both domestic and wild), birds are the primary intermediate host of infections.
Birds can interact with wild-domestic interfaces at a time, and their ability to visit multiple habitats over a thousand miles makes them play a vital role in transmitting infections.
Recent studies found that the parrots, pigeons, song sparrows, chickens, grackles, and canaries have severe clinical signs of diseases.
Even woodpeckers can be infectious hosts but the role in the epidemiology of T. gondii is limited (in bird feeding stations and the host becomes a prey).
T. gondii parasites found in parrots, such as Budgerigars, Alexandrine parakeets, Cocktails, and lovebirds, are not harmful to humans.
It’s important to discard dead host birds with proper disinfection techniques before cats eat the contaminated dead birds.
Many experiments are done on birds with the strain of human T. gondii found that some species become acutely and chronically ill, dead within a few days or a week.
Except for the chicks, there was no indication of avian host parasitic modification by such prolonged exposure to conditions.
Overall, avian species play an important role in transmitting T. gondii infections to humans and other pets.
Identifying factors and how changes in biodiversity affect the sustained parasite transmission, emergence, and prevalence in birds is important to eradicate infections from your place.