Nine Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti), between 1 and 1.5 years old and kept at Zoo Dresden, developed local and systemic infections with various opportunistic pathogens within a period of 4 months. Affected birds died peracutely without preceding symptoms or showed various clinical signs, including separation from conspecifics, reduced food intake, lethargy, dyspnea, swelling of the salt glands, and ocular discharge. One bird showed central nervous signs, including seizures. Pathologic examination of deceased birds revealed severe necrotizing inflammation of the mucous membranes and deep structures of the glottis, trachea, nasal sinus, and conchae and granulomatous inflammation of the salt glands. Further findings were airsacculitis, pneumonia, hepatitis, conjunctivitis, and myositis. Pseudomonas aeruginosa was the predominant pathogen in 7 cases. Six penguins died or were euthanatized, whereas 3 penguins that received systemic antibiotic treatment with tobramycin (10 mg/kg IM q24h for 10 days) showed rapid clinical improvement. Insufficient turnover rate of the filtration system, biofilm formation on pipe surfaces, and other factors are assumed to have promoted pathogen buildup in the pool water and subsequent infection.
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