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Exudative cloacitis in the kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) potentially linked to Escherichia coli infection

Abstract

To investigate the initiating causes of cloacitis (inflammation of the cloaca) in kakapo (Strigops habroptilus), metagenomics using unbiased RNA or DNA sequencing was applied to faecal material from an 11-year-old female kakapo with exudative cloacitis, and a pool of eight birds (male and female aged 1–20 years) with no current signs or history of the disease. Faecal material from the diseased bird was collected pre- and post-treatment. For RNA sequencing, extracted RNA/DNA was subject to DNase, and the remaining RNA reverse transcribed to cDNA and subject to multiple displacement amplification prior to sequencing. No significant alignment to any known avian virus sequence was obtained from any faecal samples. However significant BLAST alignments to five bacteriophages known to infect enterobacteria were obtained. Strong evidence was obtained for the presence of the bacteriophage Escherichia phage TL-2011b, a bacteriophage known to occur in Escherichia coli causing outbreaks of foodborne disease in humans, in the sample from the diseased bird, but not the non-diseased pool. Differences in E. coli community structure between the diseased bird and the non-diseased pool were also apparent. Escherichia coli infection of human origin is suggested as a possible cause of exudative cloacitis, although confirmatory work is required to test this hypothesis.

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