Hexamita (Spironucleus) meleagridis in Cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2012

Lauren V. Powers1, DVM, DABVP (Avian); Michael G. Levy2, PhD; Karen C. Gore2; Henry S. Marr3

1Avian and Exotic Pet Service, Carolina Veterinary Specialists, Huntersville, NC, USA; 2Department of Population Health and Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA; 3Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA


A small, flagellated gastrointestinal protozoan of psittacines has been described sporadically in the literature. It presumptively was identified as Hexamita (Spironucleus) meleagridis, but molecular characterization of this organism had not been performed.1-3,5 This protozoan has been associated with acute and chronic gastrointestinal disease in psittacines including cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus) with considerable morbidity and mortality.1-3,5 DNA isolated from the droppings of individual birds in a group of cockatiels that persistently shed protozoa was used in a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify the gene for 16s rRNA of Hexamita spp. Sequence analysis of ∼1200 bp revealed a 98% identity with Hexamita (Spironucleus) meleagridis isolated from a turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) (GenBank accession EF050054).4 Based on these sequence data, a PCR assay was developed to determine diagnostic predictive value, prevalence of infection, and morbidity and mortality for cockatiels and other psittacines.


The authors thank the Raleigh-Durham Caged Bird Society and Companion Parrots Rehomed for partial funding of this project.

Literature Cited

1.  Doneley, R.J.T. 2009. Bacterial and parasitic diseases of parrots. Vet. Clinics North Amer. Exot. Anim. Pract. 12(3): 417–432.

2.  Doneley, R.J.T. 2010. Avian Medicine and Surgery in Practice: Companion and Aviary Birds. Manson Publishing, London, United Kingdom. P. 166.

3.  Greiner, E.C., and B.W. Ritchie. 1994. Parasites. In: Ritchie, B.W., G.J. Harrison, and L.R. Harrison, (eds.). Avian Medicine: Principles and Application. Wingers Publishing, Lake Worth, Florida. Pp. 1007–1029.

4.  Jorgensen, A., and E. Sterud. 2007. Phylogeny of Spironucleus (Eopharyngia: Diplomonadida: Hexamitinae). Protist. 158:247–254.

5.  Philbey, A.W., P.L. Andrew, A.W. Gestier, R.L. Reece, and K.E. Arzey. 2002. Spironucleosis in Australian king parrots (Alisterus scapularis). Aust. Vet. J. 80(3):154–160.


Speaker Information
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Lauren V. Powers, DVM, DABVP (Avian)
Avian and Exotic Pet Service
Carolina Veterinary Specialists
Huntersville, NC, USA

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