Aspergillosis is a common cause of morbidity and mortality in captive penguins. Itraconazole, an antifungal drug, is commonly used to treat aspergillosis infections in avian species; however, commercially available human formulations are costly, and studies have shown the effectiveness of compounded formulations to be unreliable. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a veterinary formulation of itraconazole, Itrafungol, for use in cats. This study provides preliminary results from limited sampling evaluating whether this veterinary formulation is suitable for future studies in the African penguin (Spheniscus demersus). A 20 mg/kg PO itraconazole dose was administered to 9 African penguins. Blood samples were taken over the course of 24 hours; each sample was collected from a different bird to minimize stress to the animals. Plasma was analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography for concentrations of itraconazole. The drug was absorbed in all penguins, and plasma concentrations in 5 of 9 penguins (56%) were found to be greater than the established therapeutic dose of 1.0 µg/ mL. To our knowledge, this is the first study that has investigated a 20 mg/kg dose of itraconazole in a penguin species. The small sample size limits the conclusions that can be drawn from this preliminary study. Nonetheless, we demonstrate encouraging evidence that the FDA-approved formulation of oral itraconazole solution should be considered for future study as a cost-effective treatment for aspergillosis in African penguins and other avian species.
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