An epidemic of salmonellosis caused by Salmonella Typhimurium DT160 in wild birds and humans in New Zealand

Maurice Alley, Joanne Connolly, Stanley Fenwick, G Mackereth, Megan Leyland, Lynn Rogers, L Hancock, Caroline Nicoll, Christine Reed

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This study reports an outbreak of salmonellosis due to S. Typhimurium DT160 which caused extensive mortality in wild birds and enteric disease in humans in New Zealand during the winter and spring months of the year 2000. METHODS: Necropsies were performed and microbiological examinations undertaken on wild birds from populations in which mass mortality was reported, and on captive indigenous birds which died suddenly during the winter and spring of 2000. Affected tissues were examined histologically and isolates of S. Typhimurium were phage typed and examined using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Isolates of S. Typhimurium obtained from cases of human enteric disease which occurred during these months were phage typed, examined using PFGE and compared with the bird isolates. RESULTS: Central and northern areas of the South Island and the southern North Island were worst affected with die-offs of several hundreds of sparrows and other birds reported in rural areas. Mortalities reached a peak in winter (July-August) 2000 and decreased to small numbers during the spring and early summer. The birds usually died of an acute septicaemia with multifocal necrotising lesions in the liver and spleen. Human cases throughout the country increased gradually over the same period. Isolates from birds, livestock and humans examined using PFGE were indistinguishable from one another. CONCLUSION: This strain of Salmonella has emerged as a major cause of septicaemia in wild birds in New Zealand. Because of the close association between house sparrows (Passer domesticus) and humans, the organism also poses a serious zoonotic risk. The possibility that the infection may spread to involve indigenous species needs investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-176
Number of pages7
JournalNew Zealand Veterinary Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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