Avian vacuolar myelinopathy (AVM) is a neurologic disease that has been diagnosed in free-ranging birds in the southeastern United States. Bald eagles (Haliaeetus leuocephalus), American coots (Fulica americana), and mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) have been affected. Previous investigations have not determined the etiology of this disease. In November and December 2002, we attempted to induce AVM in game-farmed mallards through four, 7-day exposure trials. Mallards were housed in six groups of eight, with two of these groups serving as controls. One group was housed with AVM-affected coots; one group was tube fed daily with water from the lake where affected coots were captured; one group was tube fed daily with aquatic vegetation (Hydrilla verticillata) from the same lake; and another group was tube fed daily with sediment from the lake. No ducks exhibited clinical neurologic abnormalities consistent with AVM and no evidence of AVM was present at histopathologic examination of brain tissue. Although limitations in sample size, quantity of individual doses, frequency of dose administration, duration of exposure, and timing of these trials restrict the interpretation of the findings, AVM was not readily transmitted by direct contact, water, hydrilla, or sediment in this investigation.
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