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Detection of the European epidemic strain of Trichomonas gallinae in finches, but not other non-columbiformes, in the absence of macroscopic disease



Finch trichomonosis is an emerging infectious disease affecting European passerines caused by a clonal strain of Trichomonas gallinae. Migrating chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs) were proposed as the likely vector of parasite spread from Great Britain to Fennoscandia. To test for such parasite carriage, we screened samples of oesophagus/crop from 275 Apodiform, Passeriform and Piciform birds (40 species) which had no macroscopic evidence of trichomonosis (i.e. necrotic ingluvitis). These birds were found dead following the emergence of trichomonosis in Great Britain, 2009–2012, and were examined post-mortem. Polymerase chain reactions were used to detect (ITS1/5·8S rRNA/ITS2 region and single subunit rRNA gene) and to subtype (Fe-hydrogenase gene) T. gallinae. Trichomonas gallinae was detected in six finches [three chaffinches, two greenfinches (Chloris chloris) and a bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)]. Sequence data had 100% identity to the European finch epidemic A1 strain for each species. While these results are consistent with finches being vectors of T. gallinae, alternative explanations include the presence of incubating or resolved T. gallinae infections. The inclusion of histopathological examination would help elucidate the significance of T. gallinae infection in the absence of macroscopic lesions.


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*Corresponding author: Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regents Park, London NW1 4RY, UK. Tel: +44 207 449 6677. E-mail:


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