Giardia – A zoonotic single-celled intestinal protozoan parasite that may infect birds, dogs, cats, humans, and other animals. This parasite comes in two varieties: trophozoite and cysts. Traphozoite is the active form, which travels by flagella, which are hair-like structures. These trophozoites attach themselves to the surface of the villi via a tiny sucking disk (finger-like projections in the small intestines). A cyst is the name given to the second dormant stage. Cysts and trophozoites are sometimes shed in the feces of an afflicted bird. Cysts that can live in an ecologically stable setting may infect additional hosts. Trophozoits are unstable outside of the host, giving them less chances to infect another host.
Although all birds are vulnerable to Giardia infections, cockatiels, budgerigars, lovebirds, and Grey-cheeked parakeets are particularly at risk.
When cysts and/or trophozoites are released in the feces of an affected bird, transmission occurs. Asymptomatic birds may shed cysts in their feces on an irregular basis, providing a continuous source of infection for other birds. When these cysts and/or trophozoites are consumed through food or drink, they infect additional potential hosts. Certain insects, such as flies and cockroaches, may act as carriers of the cysts, transmitting them from one site to another. Although Giardia from mammals may infect people, the zoonotic potential for avian giardiasis is regarded to be modest.
Giardia infections in psittacine birds may be asymptomatic or cause weight loss, bulky or loose foul-smelling feces, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, depression, and chronic yeast infections.
Dry skin and feather plucking are common symptoms of Giardiosis in budgerigars and cockatiels.
Maintain a clean and dry aviary. Avoid being exposed to polluted water (standard chlorine levels in drinking water will not destroy Giardia cysts, but boiling the water will).
Keep the aviary from becoming overcrowded. All new birds, as well as any diseased birds, should be isolated and quarantined.
Ipronidazole; Metronidozole – re-treatment may be required due to the high rate of re-infection.
Giardia diagnosis in live birds might be challenging at times. New technologies, on the other hand, are extending detection limitations. The main procedures for identifying trophozoites include microscopic inspection of fecal samples, flotation tests, and trichome staining. Because the parasite sheds intermittently, many samples must be evaluated before the bird can be pronounced uninfected.
To identify parasite DNA from trophozoites and cysts, new PCR and sequencing techniques have been developed. These tests are exceedingly sensitive and specific, detecting parasites at far lower levels of activity or inactivity than was previously achievable.
Fresh cloacal and fecal samples are taken from suspicious birds for PCR testing. Swabs must be kept sterile and transferred in the proper medium. For the best results, many specimens collected throughout time are necessary. Environmental samples might also be supplied to assist in the evaluation of the environment.
Prior to delivery, samples should be kept at 4 degrees Celsius (refrigerator). Samples should be sent in a padded envelope or box. Regular mail is OK for sending samples, however overnight delivery is preferred.
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