Wild Birds as Sentinels for Multiple Zoonotic Pathogens Along an Urban to Rural Gradient in Greater Chicago, Illinois


S. A. Hamer, Veterinary Integrative Biosciences Department, Texas A&M University, 107 VMA Building, TAMU 4458, College Station, TX, USA. Tel.: 979 847 5693; Fax: 979 847 8981; E-mail: shamer@cvm.tamu.edu


Wild birds are important in the maintenance and transmission of many zoonotic pathogens. With increasing urbanization and the resulting emergence of zoonotic diseases, it is critical to understand the relationships among birds, vectors, zoonotic pathogens, and the urban landscape. Here, we use wild birds as sentinels across a gradient of urbanization to understand the relative risk of diseases caused by three types of zoonotic pathogens: Salmonella pathogens, mosquito-borne West Nile virus (WNV) and tick-borne pathogens, including the agents of Lyme disease and human anaplasmosis. Wild birds were captured using mist nets at five sites throughout greater Chicago, Illinois, and blood, faecal and ectoparasite samples were collected for diagnostic testing. A total of 289 birds were captured across all sites. A total of 2.8% of birds harboured Ixodes scapularis– the blacklegged tick – of which 54.5% were infected with the agent of Lyme disease, and none were infected with the agent of human anaplasmosis. All infested birds were from a single site that was relatively less urban. A single bird, captured at the only field site in which supplemental bird feeding was practised within the mist netting zone, was infected with Salmonella enterica subspecies enterica. While no birds harboured WNV in their blood, 3.5% of birds were seropositive, and birds from more urban sites had higher exposure to the virus than those from less urban sites. Our results demonstrate the presence of multiple bird-borne zoonotic pathogens across a gradient of urbanization and provide an assessment of potential public health risks to the high-density human populations within the area.