Sarcocystosis in psittaciform birds occurs in several different presentations, making ante-mortem diagnosis challenging without specific laboratory tests. This study followed the course of 11 birds diagnosed with sarcocystosis by serologic analysis and/or post-mortem examinations during a 10-month period in 2006–07. The disease presented in three different clinical forms: an acute pulmonary disease (three birds), muscular disease (five), and neurological disease (three). Early diagnosis of sarcocystosis was possible through the combined used of plasma protein electrophoresis and indirect fluorescent antibody serology in birds presented with the neurological and muscular forms of the disease. In three of these birds the plasma electrophoretic patterns revealed marked hypergammaglobulinemia. All of the birds that presented with the acute pulmonary form developed similar gross and microscopic lesions. Definitive diagnosis was ultimately made by microscopic observation of intravascular pulmonary schizonts containing merozoites. Schizonts were identified in the cerebellum and brainstem in two birds with the neurological form of disease. Those birds that initially presented with severe lethargy and weakness were considered to suffer from the muscular form of disease if they had extreme elevations of muscle enzyme activities (creatine phosphokinase, aspartate aminotransferase) and beta and gamma globulins concentrations, and were seropositive for antibodies to Sarcocystis falcatula. In this group the progression of the disease varied. Two birds recovered completely, and secondary aspergillosis was diagnosed in three birds. The histopathological lesions observed are discussed and interpreted in light of earlier findings from experimental infections in budgerigars, which provide insights into the natural course of sarcocystosis in psittaciform birds.
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Vol. 52 • No. 1