Conjunctivitis in house finches (Carpodacus mexicanus), caused by Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG), was first reported in 1994 and, since this time, has become endemic in house finch populations throughout eastern North America. Although the house finch is most commonly associated with MG-related conjunctivitis, MG has been reported from other wild bird species, and conjunctivitis (not confirmed as MG related) has been reported in over 30 species. To help define the host range of the house finch strain of MG and to better understand the effect of MG on other host species, we monitored a community of wild birds for exposure to MG and conducted experimental infections on nine avian species. For the field portion of our study, we conducted a 9-mo survey (August 2001 to April 2002) of wild avian species in a peri-urban environment on the campus of Auburn University. During this time 358 birds, representing 13 different families, were sampled. No clinical signs of mycoplasmosis were observed in any bird. Thirteen species from nine families had positive agglutination reactions for antibodies to MG, but all birds tested negative by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Three mourning doves were PCR-positive for MG, but antibodies to MG were not detected. In the experimental infections, we exposed seven native avian species and two cage-bird species to MG (May 2000 to June 2002). After exposure, clinical disease was seen in all four species from the family Fringillidae and in eastern tufted titmice (Baeolophus bicolor). In addition, three other species were infected without clinical signs, suggesting that they may represent potential MG reservoirs.
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Vol. 41 • No. 2