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Dec 1, 2008

Use of Rapid Test for Avian Malaria

Use of Rapid Test for Avian Malaria from Bristol Zoo Gardens

Early diagnosis of disease which allows for effective treatment

The susceptibility of outdoor-exhibited captive penguins and certain other avian species to malaria is well documented and avian malaria is the most important cause of mortality in captive outdoor penguins (Graczyk et al., 1995).

Mortalities in untreated colonies can reach 60% (Cranfield., 2003). Diagnosis traditionally depends upon blood smears and post mortem examinations which take time to arrive at a diagnosis and in some cases may miss the disease. This has happened at several zoos in the UK and USA in the last 15 years.

Treatment for avian malaria can be curative provided it is started early enough; moreover penguins are most susceptible during the first season of exposure and treatment is less successful once clinical signs appear (Cranfield., 2003) .

In a zoological collection holding susceptible species, a quick, inexpensive diagnostic test for malaria that could be performed “in-house” would be very useful. This report describes validation of the “OptiMAL-IT” test in two bird species kept at Bristol Zoo Gardens. This small kit requires just one drop of whole blood and the simple instructions can be followed by non-technical staff.

The test takes 20 minutes to run and requires no equipment or specialist knowledge. This test provides a rapid, easy to use, cheap and accurate diagnosis of avian malaria in penguins and terns.

This rapid diagnosis enables treatment to be initiated without delay.

Developed by:  Bristol Zoo Gardens

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