Chlamydia Psittaci Laboratory

The Chlamydia Psittaci laboratory is homologated as the reference laboratory for Avian Chlamydiosis (Chlamydia psittaci) by the OIE World Organisation for Animal Health. It is also recognised as the reference laboratory of the Scientific Institute of Public Health (WIV/ISP), Brussels, Belgium.

Chlamydia psittaci in birds and humans

Chlamydia psittaci, an obligate intracellular bacterium, causes psittacosis or parrot fever in parrots, parakeets, lories, and cockatoos (Psittaciformes) and is well-known as a zoonotic agent. Avian C. psittaci is classified as risk class 3 pathogen (BSL3) and as a bioterrorism category B organism. In non-psittacine birds, including poultry, the disease is often called ornithosis or more generally chlamydiosis. C. psittaci infections occur in at least 465 bird species spanning 30 different bird orders. The symptoms in birds are conjunctivitis, rhinitis, dyspnea, nasal discharge, diarrhea, polyuria, anorexia, and dullness. The transmission of C. psittaci to humans occurs through inhalation of contaminated aerosols from respiratory and eye secretions or dried feces from a diseased animal or asymptomatic carrier. Handling the plumage and tissues of infected birds and, in rare cases, mouth-to-beak contact or biting also present zoonotic risks.

Human psittacosis caused by C. psittaci, most frequently occurs in the context of the poultry industry, and from contact with Psittaciformes (cockatoos, parrots, parakeets and lories). Due to a low awareness of the disease and a variable clinical presentation psittacosis is often not recognized as such by general practitioners. Moreover, psittacosis is difficult to diagnose in the wake of empirical therapy for community-acquired pneumonia.

Reviewed by Beeckman and Vanrompay (2009). Clin. Microbiol. Infect.,15: 11–17.

Reviewed by Harkinezhad, Geens and Vanrompay (2009). Vet. Microbiol.,135, 68–77

Chlamydiosis in ruminants

Chlamydia abortus is a major abortigenic agent in ruminants, especially in sheep and causes abortion in pregnant women upon zoonotic transmission. Ovine enzootic abortion (OEA) remains a common cause of infectious abortion in many sheep-rearing countries despite the existence of commercially available vaccines that protect against the disease. Chlamydia pecorum infections in ruminants have been associated with urogenital symptoms, reproductive failure, conjunctivitis, respiratory distress, polyarthritis and pericarditis.

Reviewed by Reinhold, Sachse and Kaltenboeck. Vet J. 189:257-67.

Reviewed by Entrican, Wheelhouse N, Wattegedera SR, Longbottom D. (2012). Comp Immunol Microbiol Infect Dis., 35:271-6.

Chlamydiosis in swine

Chlamydiaceae are responsible for a broad range of diseases in pigs. In pigs, Chlamydia suis, Chlamydia abortus, Chlamydia pecorum and Chlamydia psittaci have been isolated. Chlamydiaceae infections in pigs are associated with different pathologies such as conjunctivitis, pneumonia, pericarditis, polyarthritis, polyserositis, pseudo-membranous or necrotizing enteritis, periparturient dysgalactiae syndrome, vaginal discharge, return to oestrus, abortion, mummification, delivery of weak piglets, increased perinatal and neonatal mortality and inferior semen quality, orchitis, epididymitis and urethritis in boars. However, Chlamydiaceae are still considered as non-important pathogens because reports of porcine chlamydiosis are rare. Furthermore, Chlamydiaceae infections are often unnoticed because tests for Chlamydiaceae are not routinely performed in all veterinary diagnostic laboratories and Chlamydiaceae are often found in association with other pathogens, which are sometimes more easily to detect. However, recent studies have demonstrated that Chlamydiaceae infections in breeding sows, boars and piglets occur more often than thought and are economically important.

Reviewed by Schautteet and Vanrompay. (2011). Veterinary Research, 42, 29.

Objectives of the Chlamydia psittaci reference laboratory for Public Health

  • Chlamydia psittaci diagnosis in humans.
  • Yearly following of trends in numbers of isolates of Chlamydia psittaci reported to the network in order to carry out surveillance of infectious diseases.
  • Monitoring clusters of Chlamydia psittaci infections.
  • Following up of clusters and outbreaks of Chlamydia psittaci infections.
  • Providing estimates of the incidence of reported infections on a national as well as local level.
  • Development and validation of new diagnostic tests.
  • Optimizing current diagnostic procedures.
  • Ring-tests.
  • Providing scientific advice