From 1986 to 1989, sera from wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo), including three subspecies (M. gallopavo intermedia, M. gallopavo merriami and M. gallopavo mexicana) trapped in six western states were tested for antibody to Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG) (n = 724), M. synoviae (MS) (n = 461) and M. meleagridis (MM) (n = 354) using the rapid plate agglutination (RPA) assay. Subsamples of these sera were also evaluated using the hemagglutination inhibition (HI) assay for antibody to MG (n = 664) and MS (n = 403). Attempts were made to isolate mycoplasmas by swabbing the trachea and cloaca of 190 live wild turkeys and from various tissues (sinus, nasal turbinates, trachea, lung, ovaries and oviduct) from 76 turkeys at necropsy. Isolates were identified using an immunobinding assay. Seroprevalence of MG, MS and MM in the RPA test was highly variable among years and geographic sites, ranging from 0 to 85%, 0 to 87%, and 0 to 83%, respectively, for each mycoplasma species. Of the 724 wild turkey sera tested, 200 (28%) were positive using the RPA assay, while only 20 (3%) of 664 sera tested using the HI assay were positive (at a titer >/= 1.80) for antibody to MG. Of the 461 sera tested 178 (39%) were RPA positive for MS, whereas none of the 403 samples tested by HI were positive for MS. Antibody to MM was detected in 72 (20%) of 354 turkey sera tested by RPA. Mycoplasmas were cultured from 81 (30%) of 266 wild turkeys, including 48 that were sampled live and 33 that were examined by necropsy. Mycoplasmas were isolated from every population in which culture was attempted. M. gallopavonis (MGP) was isolated from 37 (46%) of 81 birds which yielded mycoplasma, representing seven of 12 populations sampled. MG was isolated from lower respiratory tissues of one Rio Grande wild turkey trapped in Texas. M. synoviae was isolated from five of 16 Merriam's wild turkeys trapped in Arizona. Sera of birds from which MG or MS was isolated were positive to the respective antigen in the RPA test, but were negative by the HI assay. The RPA test was effective in identifying MG and MS infected turkeys despite lack of confirmation by the HI test. These data suggest that apparently healthy wild turkeys can carry pathogenic mycoplasmas and the currently used field test (RPA) can identify culture positive wild turkeys. Serological screening using the RPA test should be conducted on all wild turkeys prior to relocation.
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Vol. 28 • No. 1