Sampling wild birds for mycoplasma culture has been key to the study of House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) conjunctivitis, yielding isolates of Mycoplasma gallisepticum spanning the temporal and geographic ranges of disease from emergence to endemicity. Faced with the challenges and costs of sample collection over time and from remote locations for submission to our laboratory for mycoplasma culture, protocols evolved to achieve a practical optimum. Herein we report making M. gallisepticum isolates from House Finches almost every year since the disease emerged in 1994, and we now have 227 isolates from 17 states. Our wild bird host range for M. gallisepticum isolates includes Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata), American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis), Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria), Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus), Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus), and herein first reports for Western Scrub-jay (Aphelocoma californica), and American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos). By collecting and identifying isolates from birds with clinical signs similar to those of House Finch conjunctivitis, we also expanded the known host range of Mycoplasma sturni and obtained isolates from additional wild bird species. Accumulating evidence shows that a diverse range of wild bird species may carry or have been exposed to M. gallisepticum in the US, as in Europe and Asia. Therefore, the emergence of a pathogenic M. gallisepticum strain in House Finches may actually be the exception that has allowed us to identify the broader epidemiologic picture.
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Vol. 52 • No. 3