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IN the autumn of 2010 small numbers of red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus) with swollen heads and bulging eyes were seen on a moor in Northumberland. They were unable to fly properly and six were caught and submitted to SAC Consulting: Veterinary Services, St Boswells, for postmortem examination.
The findings in these birds included swelling of the eyelids with a sticky mucoid discharge, catarrhal exudate in the nasal passages and infraorbital sinuses, and excess mucus in the larynx and trachea. Initially it was thought the lesions were probably due to mycoplasmosis – ‘infectious sinusitis’ – caused by Mycoplasma gallisepticum infection. However, specific PCR examination for M gallisepticum was unrewarding. Subsequent histopathological examination at AHVLA – Lasswade revealed severe respiratory cryptosporidiosis, with heavy and widespread cryptosporidial infection throughout the nasal passages, infraorbital sinuses, conjunctivae and trachea. The extent and severity of this parasitic infection and the failure to demonstrate M gallisepticum suggested that the disease in these grouse was a result of primary respiratory cryptosporidiosis. At this stage of the investigation no fresh, unfixed material remained. Moredun Research Institute recovered DNA …
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