Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG) has caused an endemic upper respiratory and ocular infection in the eastern house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) after the epidemic first described in 1994. The disease has been studied by a number of investigators at a population level and reports describe experimental infection in group-housed MG-free house finches. Because detailed observation and evaluation of individual birds in group housed passerines is problematic, we studied individually housed house finches that were experimentally inoculated with the finch strain of MG in a controlled environment. To accomplish this, a study was conducted spanning the period of November 2001–April 2002 with 20 MG-free (confirmed by the rapid plate agglutination assay and polymerase chain reaction [PCR] assay) eastern house finches captured in the Cayuga Basin area of central New York (USA) in the summer of 2001. After a period of acclimatization and observation (12 wk), 20 finches were inoculated with a 0.05-ml aliquot of MG (3.24×105 colony-forming units/ml) via bilateral conjunctival sac instillations. Two additional finches acted as controls and were inoculated in the same manner with preservative-free sterile saline solution. After inoculation, all finches except the controls exhibited clinical signs of conjunctivitis within 2–6 days. The progression of the disease was evaluated by several methods, including PCR, behavioral observations, and physical examination including eye scoring, body weight, and body condition index. Over a period of 21 wk, MG-infected finches developed signs of disease and recovered (80%), developed signs of disease and progressed to become chronically infected (15%), or died (5%). We hypothesize that the high survival rate and recovery of these finches after infection was associated with the use of controlled environmental conditions, acclimatization, a high plane of nutrition, and low stocking (housing) density, all of which are factors documented to be important in the outcome of MG infections in domestic poultry and other species.
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Vol. 40 • No. 1