Fifty cranes, consisting of 46 sandhill (Grus canadensis) and four whooping cranes (Grus americana), were studied. Eighteen sandhill cranes and the four whooping cranes were naturally infected with disseminated visceral coccidiosis (DVC). The remaining sandhill cranes were chicks experimentally infected with oocysts of Eimeria reichenowi and/or E. gruis; five chicks served as controls. There were no clinical signs attributed to respiratory infection. Necropsy of naturally infected adult birds revealed nodules in many organs, including the lung, air sacs, trachea and nares. Artificially infected sandhill cranes and the whooping crane chicks that died from DVC had congestion and consolidated areas in the lung with frothy fluid in the airways. Grossly visible nodules were observed from 10 days postinoculation. Granulomatous pneumonia and tracheitis were observed with light microscopy. Lesions were associated with merogonic and gametogonic stages of eimerian coccidia. Granulomas and granulomatous foci contained parasitized large mononuclear cells. Merogonic stages were seen in lymphoid cells by ultrastructural examination. Oocysts were observed in the trachea and bronchial mucosa and admixed with exudate in the airways, indicating that crane eimerians can complete their life cycle at these sites. Of the few eimeriid coccidia that have extraintestinal stages of development in birds and mammals, only the species in cranes complete their life cycle in both the digestive and respiratory tracts.
Additional publication details
Pulmonary lesions in disseminated visceral coccidiosis of sandhill and whooping cranes