Chlamydia psittaci typically infects birds and can cause outbreaks of avian chlamydiosis, but it also has the potential to cause zoonotic disease (psittacosis) in humans. To better understand the epidemiology of C. psittaci in Victoria, Australia, we conducted opportunistic sampling of more than 400 wild and captive birds presented to the Australian Wildlife Health Centre at Zoos Victoria's Healesville Sanctuary for veterinary care between December 2014 and December 2015. Samples were screened for the presence of chlamydial DNA using quantitative PCR, and positive samples were subjected to multilocus sequence typing analysis. The results showed a significantly higher prevalence of infection in captive birds (8%; 9/113) compared to wild birds (0.7%; 2/299). Multilocus sequence typing analysis revealed that C. psittaci sequence type 24 was detected in both wild and captive birds in the local region, while C. psittaci sequence type 27 was detected for the first time in an Australian avian host. The generally low prevalence of C. psittaci detection points to a generally low zoonotic risk to veterinary and support staff, although this risk may be higher when handling captive birds, where the prevalence of C. psittaci infection was almost 10-fold higher. Even with low rates of C. psittaci detection, appropriate hygiene and biosecurity practices are recommended due to the serious human health implications of infection with this pathogen.
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Vol. 56 • No. 1