To assess the importance of wild birds as a reservoir of zoonotic pathogens in Austria and the Czech Republic, we sampled 1,325 wild birds representing 13 orders, 32 families, and 81 species. The majority belonged to orders Columbiformes (43%), Passeriformes (25%), and to birds of prey: Accipitriformes, Strigiformes, and Falconiformes (15%). We collected cloacal swabs from 1,191 birds for bacterial culture and 1,214 triple swabs (conjunctiva, choana, cloaca) for DNA and RNA isolation. The cloacal swabs were processed by classical bacteriologic methods for isolation of Escherichia coli, Salmonella spp., methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and thermophilic Campylobacter spp. Nucleic acids isolated from triple swabs were investigated by PCR for West Nile virus, avian influenza viruses, and Chlamydia spp. We also tested tissue samples from 110 fresh carcasses for Mycobacterium spp. by PCR and we cultured fresh droppings from 114 birds for Cryptococcus spp. The most-frequently detected zoonotic bacteria were thermophilic Campylobacter spp. (12.5%) and Chlamydia spp. (10.3%). From 79.2% of the sampled birds we isolated E. coli, while 8.7% and 0.2% of E. coli isolates possessed the virulence genes for intimin (eaeA) and Shiga toxins (stx1 and stx2), respectively. Salmonella spp. were rarely found in the sampled birds (2.2%), similar to findings of MRSA (0.3%). None of the samples were positive for Cryptococcus neoformans, Mycobacterium spp., avian influenza viruses, or West Nile virus.
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Vol. 52 • No. 4