The majority of bacterial diarrhea-causing illnesses in domestic pigs result from infection with Escherichia coli, Salmonella spp., or Campylobacter spp. These bacterial enteropathogens also correspond with the most-common bacteria isolated from wild birds. Additionally, viral pathogens such as avian influenza virus (AIV), West Nile virus (WNV, including Kunjin disease), and Newcastle disease virus (NDV) may also be carried and transmitted by birds in Australia. Introduced European starlings (Sturnus vulgarus) are one of the most-frequently reported birds on piggeries in Australia. The presence of the three bacterial pathogens, Salmonella spp., Campylobacter spp., and Escherichia coli, as well as the three viral pathogens AIV, WNV, and NDV, were evaluated in starlings captured on four commercial piggeries in South Australia. A total of 473 starlings were captured on the four piggeries in 2008 and 2009. A cloacal swab was taken from each bird and cultured for bacterial identification, with follow-up serotyping of any positives, whilst fifty samples were analyzed by PCR for the three target viral pathogens. There was no AIV, WNV, or NDV detected in the 50 starlings sampled. Escherichia coli was found to be present in the starling populations on all four piggeries whilst Salmonella spp. and Campylobacter jejuni were found to be present only in the starling population sampled on one piggery. Serotyping identified pig-pathogenic strains of the bacteria. The prevalence of these production-limiting bacterial pathogens in starlings, coupled with the large starling populations often found inside piggeries during daylight hours in the summer months, presents a disease transmission risk and jeopardizes piggery disease management. Removal of starlings from agricultural enterprises (as shown by international studies), or prevention of starling access to animal feed and water, could substantially reduce the risk of transmission of enterobacterial pathogens from starlings to livestock.
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Vol. 60 • No. 2