Evidence of Spread of the Emerging Infectious Disease, Finch Trichomonosis, by Migrating birds
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Finch trichomonosis emerged in Great Britain in 2005 and led to epidemic mortality and a significant population decline of greenfinches, Carduelis chloris and chaffinches, Fringilla coelebs, in the central and western counties of England and Wales in the autumn of 2006. In this article, we show continued epidemic spread of the disease with a pronounced shift in geographical distribution towards eastern England in 2007. This was followed by international spread to southern Fennoscandia where cases were confirmed at multiple sites in the summer of 2008. Sequence data of the ITS1/5.8S/ITS2 ribosomal region and part of the small subunit (SSU) rRNA gene showed no variation between the British and Fennoscandian parasite strains of Trichomonas gallinae. Epidemiological and historical ring return data support bird migration as a plausible mechanism for the observed pattern of disease spread, and suggest the chaffinch as the most likely primary vector. This finding is novel since, although intuitive, confirmed disease spread by migratory birds is very rare and, when it has been recognised, this has generally been for diseases caused by viral pathogens. We believe this to be the first documented case of the spread of a protozoal emerging infectious disease by migrating birds.
Keywordstrichomonosis Trichomonas gallinae Carduelis chloris Fringilla coelebs migration emerging infectious disease
Tha authors thank the BTO Garden BirdWatch participants, Varpu Hirvelä-Koski, Perttu Koski, Petra Heikkinen and Roland Mattson. The British and Irish Ringing Scheme is funded through a partnership between the BTO, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (on behalf of Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Countryside Council for Wales and the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside in Northern Ireland), BirdWatch Ireland and the ringers themselves. We thank all those who have marked or reported birds over the years. This is a publication of the Garden Bird Health initiative, which received financial support from the following organisations; Birdcare Standards Association, British Trust for Ornithology, British Veterinary Association Animal Welfare Foundation, CJ Wildbird Foods, Cranswick Pet Products, Defra, Gardman Ltd, RCVS Trust Small Grants Programme Reference 000443, RSPB, John and Pamela Salter Trust (R16982), Tom Chambers Ltd., and the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare.
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