Although avian species are known to be susceptible to infection with Mycobacterium spp. organisms, much remains unknown about the susceptibility of birds to infection with M. bovis. The objective of this current study was to determine if wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) can be infected with M. bovis when inoculated by the oral or intratracheal route. Six turkeys were orally inoculated and another six were inoculated via the trachea with a high dose of M. bovis, 1 × 105 CFU/ml. Six turkeys were sham-inoculated controls. Two turkeys from each treatment group were sacrificed on days 30, 60, and 90 postinoculation. There were no gross or microscopic lesions consistent with mycobacteriosis in the 23 inoculated turkeys over the 90-day duration of this study. Fecal cultures were also consistently negative for M. bovis when sampled before inoculation and on days 1, 30, and 60 postinoculation. Two intratracheally inoculated turkeys were positive for M. bovis in visceral tissues at 30 days postinoculation. However, this finding was only indicative of passive persistence of mycobacteria in the tissues and not of infection, as there were no attendant lesions or clinical compromise to support infection. Thus, it can be concluded that young wild turkeys are resistant to infection with M. bovis and, therefore, pose minimal threat as reservoir or spillover hosts for this organism.
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Vol. 50 • No. 1