Epidemiological investigation of Chlamydophila psittaci in pigeons and free-living birds in Croatia

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During 2003, 278 adult pigeons (Columba livia) and 54 birds of 11 other free-living species were caught in the various locations in the City of Zagreb, Croatia. Sera from 182 pigeons were tested for the presence of antibodies against Chlamydophila (C.) psittaci by ELISA test and 174 of them (95.6%) were found positive. Because of the high positivity rate in sera, cloacal swabs of 278 pigeons as well as 54 other species of free-living birds were tested for the presence of C. psittaci antigen. Fourty-four of the 278 pigeons (15.83%) were antigen positive, whereas all 54 of the wild birds were negative. Antigen-positive pigeons were euthanised and examined pathomorphologically and cytologically. Findings of specific antibodies and antigen of C. psittaci confirmed the high rate of infection among urban pigeons in the City of Zagreb, fortunately not among other free-living birds. Although the pigeon serovars of C. psittaci are considered to be of moderate pathogenicity for humans, the identification of 15.8% antigen-positive birds represents a potential source of infection to humans, especially for elderly people and immunodeficient patients, as well as for poultry in the Zagreb city area.

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