Outbreak of Disease Caused by Escherichia albertii in Birds at an Australian Zoo
2018 Joint EAZWV/AAZV/Leibniz-IZW Conference
Frances Hulst1, BVSc, MVS; Paul Thompson1, BMedSc, MSc; Esther E. Crouch2, DVM, MVS; Lydia Tong1, MA, VetMB; David M. Gordon3, BSc, PhD; Larry Vogelnest1, BVSc, MVS, MANZCVS; Kimberly Vinette Herrin1, MS, DVM, MANZCVS; Gabrielle Tobias1, BVSc, MAppSc; Karrie Rose1, DVM, DVSc
1Taronga Conservation Society Australia, Mosman, NSW, Australia; 2Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA; 3Research School of Biology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia


Between January 2016 and September 2017, disease caused by the emerging pathogen Escherichia albertii was diagnosed in 17 collection birds and one wild bird at Taronga Zoo. This is the first report of disease caused by E. albertii in Australian birds. Thirteen mortalities occurred during four disease clusters, each separated by time and aviary location. Two involved only little lorikeets (Glossopsitta pusilla), while a third also included a turquoise parrot (Neophema pulchella) and a superb parrot (Polytelis swainsonii). Small parrots suffered primarily from acute mortality. The most consistent gross and histopathology findings were poor body condition, and enteric disease. In a fourth cluster, two galahs (Eolophus roseicapilla), a red-tailed black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) and an Australian raven (Corvus coronoides) from the zoo’s bird show developed anorexia, depression, inconsistent diarrhoea and heterophilic left shift with toxic granulation on haematology. A wild Australian magpie (Cracticus tibicen) was found dead nearby with E. albertii enteritis during this time. The reference public health laboratory initially misidentified bacteria cultured from faeces or liver of each of the 18 birds as non-lactose fermenting enteropathogenic E. coli. E. albertii was later identified through whole genome sequencing. One little lorikeet and the four bird show birds recovered with susceptibility based antibiotic therapy and intensive hospital care. Follow-up faecal culture was negative. Enhanced aviary infection control measures were instituted, and some valuable in-contact birds were administered prophylactic antibiosis. Screening is underway to understand the role of wild and captive birds in transmission pathways within the zoo.


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Frances Hulst, BVSc, MVS
Taronga Conservation Society Australia
Mosman, NSW, Australia

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