Avian cholera, an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida, kills thousands of North American wild waterfowl annually. Pasteurella multocida serotype 1 isolates cultured during a laboratory challenge study of Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) and collected from wild birds and environmental samples during avian cholera outbreaks were characterized using amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) analysis, a whole-genome DNA fingerprinting technique. Comparison of the AFLP profiles of 53 isolates from the laboratory challenge demonstrated that P. multocida underwent genetic changes during a 3-mo period. Analysis of 120 P. multocida serotype 1 isolates collected from wild birds and environmental samples revealed that isolates were distinguishable from one another based on regional and temporal genetic characteristics. Thus, AFLP analysis had the ability to distinguish P. multocida isolates of the same serotype by detecting spatiotemporal genetic changes and provides a tool to advance the study of avian cholera epidemiology. Further application of AFLP technology to the examination of wild bird avian cholera outbreaks may facilitate more effective management of this disease by providing the potential to investigate correlations between virulence and P. multocida genotypes, to identify affiliations between bird species and bacterial genotypes, and to elucidate the role of specific bird species in disease transmission.
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