Outbreaks of respiratory disease were investigated in reared pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) aged approximately 18 to 32 weeks, released into the semi-wild on four shooting estates in southern England. The clinical signs in the affected birds included swelling of the face and eyes, loss of condition, gasping respirations and coughing. The gross pathology findings included sinusitis, airsacculitis, pleural oedema and lung lesions. The histopathological findings in the affected lungs were characterized by a granulomatous pneumonia. Ornithobacterium rhinotracheale (ORT) was isolated from respiratory tract tissues, and 16S rRNA gene sequencing on three isolates revealed two distinct genotypes, one previously associated with some electrophoretic type (ET) 1 strains and the other a novel genotype that clustered among sequences previously associated with ET 3, ET 4, ET 5 and ET 6 isolates. The localization of ORT within the lung tissue was demonstrated by fluorescent in-situ hybridization in the bronchial exudate of three cases, although not within the granulomatous lesions themselves. In each case, ORT was identified as part of a complex of other respiratory agents including avian paramyxovirus type 2, avian coronavirus, Mycoplasma gallisepticum, Mycoplasma synoviae and other Mycoplasma species, Escherichia coli, Pasteurella multocida, other Pasteurellaceae and Syngamus trachea, suggesting synergism with other agents. Exposure to other intercurrent factors, including adverse weather conditions and internal parasitism, may also have exacerbated the severity of disease.
Avian Pathology, 2013, Vol 42, Issue 2, p. 171-178