Trichomonosis discovered amongst myna birds in Pakistan

April 23, 2018, University of East Anglia
Credit: University of East Anglia

A strain of the disease responsible for killing off nearly two thirds of the UK's greenfinches has been discovered in myna bird populations in Pakistan.

Mynas are native to the Indian subcontinent and are one of the world's most invasive . Although the disease is not generally fatal to them, experts from the University of East Anglia studying the birds say there is a risk they might pass it on to other species.

Avian trichomonosis, more commonly called canker or frounce, is carried by a parasite that primarily infects pigeons in the UK and the larger birds of prey which feed on them.

But in 2005 scientists found the disease had jumped into Britain's garden songbird populations, predominantly affecting greenfinches and chaffinches.

Since then, the greenfinch in the UK has fallen from around 4.3 million breeding pairs to fewer than 1.5 million in 2016.

In 2011, the disease was discovered to have reached European finch populations. Now researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have found it in an entirely separate songbird species - the common myna.

Working in partnership with the University of Agriculture in Pakistan, researchers captured and screened 167 myna birds from eight different sites around the Faisalabad region of Pakistan. They discovered that around 20 per cent of the birds were infected with the disease and that there were infected birds at all of the sites surveyed.

The study, published in the journal Parasitology, also identified that the disease affecting the mynas was a different strain from the one found in the UK songbirds. Few of the infected birds had signs of poor health, suggesting that they can carry the disease without it being fatal.

Because myna birds are so invasive, however, there is a significant risk that they can spread the disease to other species that might not otherwise come into contact with it.

Dr Kevin Tyler, from UEA and a senior author of the study, said: "Mynas are able to roost almost anywhere in warm climates, which is one reason they are so successful, but it could also mean they are likely to spread the disease further.

"Mynas have already been implicated in the spread of bird flu through contact with poultry, so this could be of concern to poultry farmers. However, further research and testing is needed to see whether the disease has yet spread from mynas to other species."

He added: "In the UK, pigeons carry this disease without serious symptoms and it looks like myna birds are able to do the same. This could be due to a natural resilience to the disease, or it could be that this is a less virulent strain - again, we need to carry out further research to investigate."

Although mynas are thought to be native to the Indian subcontinent, populations of the have spread around the world, so the team is also keen to test for the in other countries.

'Endemic infection of the common mynah Acridotheres tristis with Trichomonas gallinae the agent of avian trichomonosis', by Hassan Ali Farooq, Hammad Ahmad Khan, Abdulwahed Fahad Alrefaei and Kevin Morris Tyler, is published in Parasitology on April 23, 2018.

Explore further: Invasive birds spreading avian malaria in eastern Australia

Related Stories

Bird disease spreads from UK to Europe

September 23, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The deadly bird disease trichomonosis, which has been killing off large numbers of greenfinches and chaffinches in Britain since 2005, has spread to Europe according to a new study published in EcoHealth.

Myna 'guity of evicting Aussie birds'

November 27, 2012

The common myna – popularly known as 'the cane-toad of the air' – has been convicted on new evidence it is pushing Australian native birds out of their home range.

Helping native birds beat their bullies

December 30, 2014

Small Australian native birds are losing food and home to a growing flock of rivals, including native birds arriving from other states, invasive alien birds and those that thrive in urban areas, environmental scientists have ...

Invasive frogs give invasive birds a boost in Hawaii

November 29, 2017

Puerto Rican coqui frogs were accidentally introduced to Hawaii in the 1980s, and today there are as many as 91,000 frogs per hectare in some locations. What does that mean for native wildlife? Concerns that ravenous coquis ...

Recommended for you

Dragonfly enzymes point to larger evolutionary dynamics

May 24, 2018

Although evolution has left dragonflies virtually unchanged for roughly 300 million years, new research by a UTM biologist reveals that understanding small physiological activities in these insects could reveal a deeper understanding ...

The path to success for fish sperm

May 24, 2018

In many animals, males pursue alternative tactics when competing for the fertilization of eggs. Some cichlid fishes from Lake Tanganyika breed in empty snail shells, which may select for extremely divergent mating tactics. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.