Avian Mycoplasmosis being managed in poultry

Avian Mycoplasmosis in Wildlife: Causes, Impacts, and Management

Avian mycoplasmosis, also known as avian mycoplasma infection or chronic respiratory disease, is a widespread and highly contagious respiratory disease in birds caused by the bacteria Mycoplasma gallisepticum and M. synoviae. While commonly found in domestic poultry, avian mycoplasmosis can also impact wild birds, causing severe respiratory problems, decreased productivity, and even death.

In this article, we will explore the causes, significance, species affected, distribution, transmission, clinical signs, diagnosis, treatment, management, and conclusion related to avian mycoplasmosis in wildlife.


Avian mycoplasmosis is caused by the bacteria Mycoplasma gallisepticum and M. synoviae, which are members of the Mollicutes class of bacteria. These bacteria are highly contagious and can easily spread through respiratory secretions and feces of infected birds. The bacteria can also survive in the environment for weeks, making it challenging to control the spread of the disease.


Avian mycoplasmosis has a significant impact on both domestic and wild bird populations. In domestic poultry, it can cause decreased egg production, increased mortality, and poor growth rates, resulting in significant economic losses for the poultry industry.

In wild birds, it can cause severe respiratory disease and decreased productivity, impacting their ability to forage and survive in their natural habitat.

Species Affected:

Avian mycoplasmosis can affect a wide range of bird species, including domestic poultry, game birds, waterfowl, raptors, and songbirds. While the disease is commonly found in domestic poultry, wild birds can also be infected, particularly in densely populated areas such as bird feeders and water sources.


Avian mycoplasmosis is widespread and can be found in many parts of the world, including North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. The disease is most prevalent in areas where domestic poultry and wild birds coexist, such as poultry farms, bird sanctuaries, and wildlife rehabilitation centers.


The bacteria responsible for avian mycoplasmosis can be transmitted through respiratory secretions, feces, and direct contact with infected birds. Wild birds can become infected through contact with infected domestic poultry or through contact with other infected wild birds in communal areas such as bird feeders and water sources.

Clinical Signs:

Avian mycoplasmosis can cause a range of clinical signs in birds, including sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, swollen sinuses, difficulty breathing, and conjunctivitis. Infected birds may also exhibit lethargy, loss of appetite, decreased activity, and decreased productivity. In severe cases, the disease can lead to death.


Diagnosing avian mycoplasmosis in wildlife can be challenging, as many of the clinical signs are similar to those of other respiratory diseases. A veterinarian or wildlife biologist may collect samples of respiratory secretions or blood for laboratory testing to confirm the presence of the bacteria. Molecular diagnostic techniques such as PCR (polymerase chain reaction) are often used to detect the bacteria.


Treatment of avian mycoplasmosis in wildlife typically involves the use of antibiotics such as tetracyclines and macrolides. Treatment is often administered orally or through injections and can last for several weeks. It is important to note that not all birds may respond to treatment, and in some cases, the disease can become chronic.

Additionally, the treatment of powerful wild birds such as raptors or those that are difficult to track can greatly complicate the treatment of this disease.


The management of avian mycoplasmosis involves several measures to prevent and control the spread of the disease. The most important management strategy is to practice good biosecurity measures. This includes maintaining a clean and dry environment, using disinfectants, and minimizing contact between infected and uninfected birds. Proper sanitation and hygiene practices should be followed to prevent the introduction and spread of the disease. The following are additional management strategies that can be employed:

  1. Isolation of Infected Birds: Infected birds should be immediately removed from the flock and isolated from healthy birds to prevent the spread of the disease.
  2. Culling Infected Birds: In severe cases, infected birds should be culled to prevent further spread of the disease.
  3. Vaccination: Vaccination is an effective method of preventing the spread of the disease. Vaccines are available for some strains of avian mycoplasmosis, and birds should be vaccinated according to the recommended schedule.
  4. Antibiotic Treatment: Antibiotics can be used to treat birds with avian mycoplasmosis, but it is important to use antibiotics judiciously to avoid the development of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics should be used only when necessary and under the guidance of a veterinarian.
  5. Quarantine: Newly introduced birds should be quarantined for a minimum of 30 days to prevent the introduction of the disease to the flock.
  6. Depopulation: In severe cases, depopulation of the entire flock may be necessary to prevent further spread of the disease.
  7. Education: Education is crucial in the management of avian mycoplasmosis. Bird owners and caretakers should be educated on the symptoms of the disease, its transmission, and prevention measures.

Proper management practices can help prevent the spread of avian mycoplasmosis and minimize its impact on wildlife.


Avian mycoplasmosis is a widespread bacterial infection that can have significant impacts on wild bird populations, particularly those that are already under stress due to habitat loss, climate change, or other factors. It’s one of several bacteria infections that impact wild birds.

The disease can affect a wide range of bird species, from waterfowl to songbirds, and can cause respiratory, ocular, and other health problems that can reduce their fitness and reproductive success.

Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for managing avian mycoplasmosis outbreaks and preventing the spread of the disease. Effective management strategies include reducing stressors in the birds’ environment, such as habitat loss or overcrowding, and implementing biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of the disease between captive and wild bird populations.

Further research is needed to fully understand the epidemiology and ecology of avian mycoplasmosis, as well as to develop new diagnostic tools and treatment options. By improving our understanding of this disease, we can better protect wild bird populations and promote the conservation of their habitats.

Sources and Further Reading

  1. Ley, D. H., & Berkhoff, J. E. (1998). Diagnosis of mycoplasma infections in poultry. Avian diseases, 42(3), 513-521.
  2. Stipkovits, L., & Kempf, I. (1999). Mycoplasmoses in birds. Revue scientifique et technique (International Office of Epizootics), 18(1), 200-215.
  3. Dhondt, A. A. (2011). Avian disease: a challenge for ecological studies. The Auk, 128(1), 1-14.
  4. Feare, C. J. (2010). The role of wild birds in the spread of avian influenza viruses. Aves, 47(4), 32-39.
  5. Geary, S. J. (2008). Understanding the mechanisms of Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae pathogenesis: the need for more accurate and robust models. Veterinary microbiology, 126(1-3), 1-7.
  6. Friend, M., & Franson, J. C. (1999). Field manual of wildlife diseases: general field procedures and diseases of birds (No. 5). US Geological Survey.
  7. Olsen, B., Munster, V. J., Wallensten, A., Waldenström, J., Osterhaus, A. D., & Fouchier, R. A. (2006). Global patterns of influenza a virus in wild birds. Science, 312(5772), 384-388.
  8. Dhondt, A. A., Tessaglia, D. L., & Slothower, R. L. (1998). Survival and infectivity of Mycoplasma gallisepticum on surfaces. Avian diseases, 42(3), 617-621.
  9. Ley, D. H. (2003). Mycoplasma gallisepticum infection. Diseases of poultry, 11, 722-734.
  10. Dhondt, A. A., Altizer, S., Cooch, E. G., Davis, A. K., Dobson, A., Driscoll, M. J., … & Marra, P. P. (2005). Dynamics of avian influenza in wild birds and the emergence of highly pathogenic avian influenza strains. Infection, Genetics and Evolution, 5(3), 200-208.