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Clostridia and birds

Robert J. Carman rjcarman at TECHLABINC.COM
Mon Nov 2 17:16:14 EST 1998


Clostrdium botulinum Type C spores are sometimes abundant in the sediment
of the habitats of wading birds.  That is normally not a problem for the
birds as the ingested spores do not germinate in the healthy birds' guts.
No botulinal toxin is produced and the birds remain healthy.  In vitro
cultures of their stool may well be toxic though.  Non-germinating spores
are voided in the feces.  Birds presumably "transport" spores under these

During droughts spores in the anoxic, warming mud germinate and toxin is
produced.  Wildfowl ingesting the mud get type C botulism.  There are
seasonal outbreaks in the Ribble Estuary in N.E. England.  The Wildfowl
Trust (Slimbridge, England) or the Royal Society for the Protection of
Birds (Sandy, England) should know more.

Reports that may be useful are:

McKenzie et al.  1982.  Dieldrin poisoning and botulism in Australian
pelicans.  Austrl. Vet. J. 58: 148-152.

Kurazono et al.  1985.  Botulism among penned pheasants and protection by
vaccination with C1 toxoid.  Res. Vet. Sci., 38: 104-108.

Graham et al.  1977. Observations on the possible invasiveness of C.
botulinum for waterfowl. Res. Vet. Sci., 22:  343-346.

Graham et al.  1978.  Avian botulism in winter and spring and the stability
of C. botulinum type C toxin.  Vet. Rec., 102:  40-41.

Kalmbach et al.  1934.  Western duck sickness.  A form of botulism.  USDA
Tech Bull, No 411., 81 pp.

If you mean, "Do bird feces contain other pathogenic and non pathogenic
clostridial spores and/or vegetative cells?", the answer is "Yes."  There
is a bird-only ulcerative enteritis caused by Clostridium colinum and
necrotic enteritis may be caused by certain types of C. perfringens.
Healhy birds carry many non-pathogenic clostridia, most of these are novel
speccies still to be named.  I have seen one report of a total clostridial
count of 10e5/g feces.  The total bacterial count in avian feces is around


Robert J. Carman, Ph.D.,
Director, Contract Research,
TechLab, Inc,
1861 Pratt Drive,
VA 24060-6364,

Phone: (540) 953 1664 ext 3012
FAX: (540) 953 1665
e mail: rjcarman at techlabinc.com

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