The most effective approaches to control the spread of Mycoplasma gallisepticum include strict biosecurity measures, continuous surveillance and eradication of infected flocks. The rapid expansion of the poultry industry worldwide in restricted geographical areas and severe economic losses due to M. gallisepticum outbreaks make it crucial to identify and better control the vectors responsible for the transmission of the disease. In the present study we evaluated the susceptibility of sparrows and pigeons to M. gallisepticum and the tissue distribution of M. gallisepticum in these species as compared with chickens. This information will further define the role of these common avian species in M. gallisepticum transmission. Twenty-six chickens, pigeons, and sparrows were experimentally inoculated with a field strain of M. gallisepticum and were monitored for the development of clinical signs, seroconversion, productive infection by culture, and M. gallisepticum distribution in their tissues by immunohistochemistry. All M. gallisepticum-inoculated chickens showed mild respiratory signs, seroconverted (haemagglutination inhibition geometric mean titre=494) and shed M. gallisepticum in their tracheas. M. gallisepticum antigens were observed at high levels by immunohistochemistry in their tracheas, conjunctivas, nasal turbinates, and air sacs. The pigeons and sparrows did not show clinical signs or seroconvert but M. gallisepticum was reisolated up to 7 days post inoculation from pigeons and intermittently from sparrows. M. gallisepticum antigens were observed at low level in the conjunctiva of some pigeons and sparrows, as well as in the trachea of some sparrows. We conclude that pigeons and sparrows are partially susceptible to M. gallisepticum infection but do not seroconvert or maintain a steady carrier state similar to chickens and that these species may play a role in M. gallisepticum transmission between poultry farms as mechanical vectors.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors would like to thank the Deanship of Research at Jordan University of Science and Technology and The Scientific Research Fund of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research for supporting the present work. They also thank Dr Kamel Mahmoud for his comments and help with the statistical analysis and Dr Naola Ferguson-Noel for her help in revising this manuscript.