Fourteen house finches were reinoculated (re-exposed) with 0.05 ml (3.24×105 colony forming units/ml) of Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG) in the conjunctival sac of each eye. All birds used in this reinoculation study had recovered from previous infection between 27 and 83 days after inoculation. Recovery was based on the absence of clinical signs of conjunctivitis and/or the inability to detect MG in conjunctival or choanal samples. Birds were maintained in individual cages under controlled environmental conditions at temperature 21–24 C, relative humidity 70%, and a light cycle adjusted to ambient values. They were divided into three groups, (A, B, and C). Five birds each were reinoculated 219 days (7.3 mo, group A) and 314 days (10.47 mo, group B) after the original infection. The final group of four birds was reinoculated at 425 days after experimental infection (14.17 mo, group C). Although the birds were randomly assigned to the three groups, the duration of the disease state (number of days until clinical signs last observed) during initial infection differed: group A mean = 37.0±SE 4.549, group B mean=63.6±SE 6.306, group C mean=42.75±SE 2.750; analysis of variance F2,11=8.17, P = 0.007. Within 24 hr after reinoculation six of the 14 experimental birds had developed some clinical signs of MG-induced conjunctivitis. At 3 days after reinoculation, 12 of the 14 birds had unilateral or bilateral conjunctivitis. The duration of clinical signs in the reinoculated individuals was significantly shorter than with their previous infection. These results suggest that the birds were able to mount a rapid and strong immune response following re-exposure. However, they were susceptible to reinfection and developed disease, suggesting that reinfection or perhaps even recurrence of infection and disease could occur in the free-ranging population. This may represent an important component in the epidemiology of this disease in house finches.
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Vol. 41 • No. 2