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Chapter 15 - Miscellaneous Fungal Diseases

Authors: Milton Friend.

Miscellaneous Fungal Diseases

As for other types of disease, fungal infections probably are more common causes of disease in wild birds than is currently recognized. Also, the similarity in gross lesions produced by some fungi mask the detection of less common fungi as disease agents. Numerous types of disease-causing fungi in addition to Aspergillus fumigatus and Candida albicans have been isolated from birds; most isolations have been from poultry and wild birds being maintained in captivity. Enhanced disease surveillance that is often associated with privately owned birds and greater opportunity to detect disease in confined birds are reasons for these findings rather than any known differences in the occurrence of fungal diseases in free-ranging and captive birds. Many of the reported infections appear to have been opportunistic invasions by the fungi involved. The important points are that many fungi are capable of causing disease in birds but their collective impacts do not rival A. fumigatus as a single cause of disease in wild birds. Nevertheless, it is important to be aware of the diversity of pathogenic or disease causing fungi.

Infectious diseases caused by fungi have been grouped into categories that represent their involvement within the host.

Types of mycosis
(direct invasion of tissue by fungal cells)
Category Area of the body affected
Superficial Found on the outermost layers of the body covering; are generally of cosmetic impact rather than causes of illness or death; have not been reported in birds
Cutaneous
(dermato-phytosis)
Found on the skin and appendages
Subcutaneous Usually found in the fat-containing tissues underneath the skin and in the skin
Systemic Result in infection of internal organs as well as other tissues

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Aspergillosis and candidiasis are diseases characteristic of systemic mycosis. Candidiasis can also be a cutaneous mycosis.

Trichophyton gallinae is the primary cause of ringworm, or fowl favus, in birds, and has been reported in poultry and several species of wild birds in addition to companion animals, humans, and other mammalian species. T. gallinae is widely distributed geographically, and infection by this fungus is a striking example of a cutaneous mycosis (Fig. 15.1). Ringworm in birds is highly contagious, and it is transmitted by direct bird-to-bird contact or by contact with a contaminated environment. The fungus can remain viable at room temperature in infected scales or skin lesions that slough from the body for up to 1 year. Microsporum gallinae is another widely distributed fungus that is a significant cause of ring-worm in birds and mammals.

Dactylaria gallopova causes a subcutaneous mycosis reported for poultry. This fungus is found in warm habitats such as hot springs and thermal soils. The fungi generally enter the body at a traumatized or injured site and may then invade other sites following fungal establishment and growth. D. gallopova is not contagious, but it can invade the brain following its spread from the site of infection. Death is the outcome when the brain is invaded.

Aspergillus niger is another fungus within the genus Aspergillus that has caused bird deaths.

As noted in the Introduction of this Section, disease due to infection of tissues is only one aspect of the potential impacts of fungi. The added issues of mycotoxins (see is another fungus within the genus Aspergillus that has caused bird deaths. As noted in the Introduction of this Section, disease due to infection of tissues is only one aspect of the potential impacts of fungi. The added issues of mycotoxins (see Section 6, Biotoxins), allergic responses, and other aspects of fungal diseases make fungi an important area for consideration in the management and stewardship of free-ranging bird populations.

Figure 15.1
Click Photo for full-page viewExtensive loss of feathers of the head of a loon believed to have been caused by ringworm resulting from infection by Trichophyton sp.

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Supplementary Reading

  • Hubbard, G.B., Schmidt, R.E., Eisenbrandt, D.L., Witt, W.M., and
    Fletcher, K.C., 1985, Fungal infections of ventriculi in captive
    birds: Journal of Wildlife Diseases, v. 21, p. 25–28.

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