The purpose of this pilot study was to determine if pigeons (Columba livia) are susceptible to infection with Mycobacterium bovis by either oral or intratracheal inoculation and to assess their possible role in the lateral transmission of bovine tuberculosis. Six pigeons were orally inoculated with 1.3 × 105 colony-forming units of M. bovis, six pigeons were intratracheally inoculated with the same dose, and six pigeons served as noninoculated controls. The study continued for 90 days postinoculation (PI), with groups of birds necropsied at 30-day intervals, and fecal samples and tissues were collected for mycobacterial culture. Two pigeons, one intratracheally inoculated and one orally inoculated, shed M. bovis in their feces at 1 day PI, and one intratracheally inoculated bird shed M. bovis in its feces 60 days PI. Whereas no illness or weight loss was present during the course of the study, 2 of 12 inoculated birds exhibited microscopic lesions of mycobacteriosis, and the organism was isolated from tissues of three inoculated birds. Pigeons are susceptible to infection with M. bovis after high dose inoculation and can shed the organism in their feces for up to 60 days PI; intratracheally inoculated birds appear more likely to become active fecal shedders of M. bovis. Although these were high dose inoculations under experimental conditions, pigeons may potentially play a role in the lateral transmission of bovine tuberculosis between infected and uninfected mammalian hosts.
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Vol. 47 • No. 2