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Avian Tuberculosis


Avian tuberculosis is a highly contagious bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium avium that affects all avian species, especially waterfowl. The disease develops gradually over a course of weeks, months, or even years---and is chronic and progressive in nature. M. avium primarily targets the duck's liver and digestive tract, and later disseminating into the lungs, air sacs, spleen, bone marrow, and skin.

How Ducks Become Infected

Ducks become infected with M. avium through ingestion or inhalation of the bacteria while dabbling in their environment. Higher numbers of infective bacteria are found around the water. Infected birds will continuously shed the bacterial organisms in their feces, leading to high levels of contamination within their environment. M. avium is highly resistant to environmental elements and has been found to survive in soil for up to 4 years.


Weight loss
Marked atrophy of breast muscles
Poor body condition
Enlarged abdomen
Reduced egg production


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Acid fast staining
  • Bacterial culture
  • Tuberculin test
  • Rapid agglutination test
  • PCR
  • Necropsy gross lesions


MethodMethod Summary
Antibiotic sensitivity testingIndicated for treatment, since each strain of M. avium shows differing resistance to different antibiotics.
Supportive care


  • Reduce stress
  • Biosecurity
  • Do not use peat as a bedding material for ducks
  • Minimizing overcrowding
  • Providing proper ventilation
  • Supplementing adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals in diet
  • Quarantine new birds to the flock for at least 60 days


Age Range

It usually occurs in birds over 2 years of age but can occur in birds of all ages.

Risk Factors

  • Stressed or with suppressed immune systems
  • Exposure to wild bird populations, including sparrows, starlings and pigeons
  • Roof-harvested rainwater
  • Living in the North Temperate Zone
  • Overcrowding
  • Poor sanitation and hygienic conditions
  • Kept in captivity