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A survey for potential pathogens in wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) in Ontario, Canada

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Title: A survey for potential pathogens in wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) in Ontario, Canada
Author: MacDonald, Amanda
Department: Department of Pathobiology
Program: Pathobiology
Advisor: Nemeth, Nicole MarieJardine, Claire
Abstract: The primary purpose of this thesis was to investigate the prevalence and distribution of potential pathogens circulating in wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) in Ontario. Many potential disease-causing agents, amplified by anthropogenic actions, pose a threat to the health of wildlife. Since their reintroduction in 1984, wild turkeys have increased in number and geographic range. Furthermore, these populations geographically overlap with domestic turkey farms (wildlife-livestock interface), and possible pathogen transmission between wild and domestic turkeys is a concern, as they are susceptible to infection with many of the same pathogens. Despite this, information on the health and the occurrence of pathogens that may cause disease in wild turkeys in Ontario is lacking. To address these knowledge gaps, I conducted a retrospective analysis of post-mortem findings and diagnoses for 56 wild turkeys submitted, over a 20-year period, to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative for diagnostic evaluation. Non-infectious diagnoses were more common than infectious, with emaciation identified most frequently. Next, a prospective study was conducted to investigate pathogens previously associated with disease outbreaks or decreased fitness of wild and domestic turkeys. Hunter-harvested and other opportunistically collected wild turkeys (n=215) from across southern Ontario were tested for Mycoplasma spp., Salmonella spp., Escherichia coli, Ornithobacterium rhinotracheale, Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, Pasteurella multocida, Campylobacter spp., Eimeria spp., avian pox virus, avian influenza viruses, and lymphoproliferative disease virus. Positive E. coli isolates were further tested for antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Laboratory methods included culture, fecal floatation, histopathology, and PCR. Most wild turkeys tested positive for Mycoplasma and Eimeria spp., and over half were positive for E. coli and lymphoproliferative disease virus. There were rare isolations of avian poxvirus and Campylobacter jejuni, and no detection of avian influenza viruses, Salmonella, O. rhinotracheale, E. rhusiopathiae, and P. multocida. Finally, AMR testing performed on Escherichia coli isolates documented limited resistance to antimicrobials. The baseline data provided by this research provides insight into the health of hunter-harvested wild turkeys in Ontario and will aid in future monitoring of disease emergence. In addition, it will contribute to conservation and management strategies that help to ensure sustainable populations of wild turkeys in Ontario.
Date: 2018-05

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