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Poultry Diseases Caused by Fungus/Mold

Dr.Kedar Karki

Aspergillosis (Brooder Pneumonia)

Aspergillosis has been observed in almost all birds and animals, including man.
The disease is observed in one of two forms; acute outbreaks with high morbidity
and high mortality in young birds, and a chronic condition affecting adult birds. It
is more of a problem in turkeys than in chickens.

The condition is caused by Aspergillus fumigatus, a mold or fungus-type

organism. Occasionally other types of molds are involved. These organisms are
present in the environment of all poultry. They grow readily on many substances
such as litter, feed, rotten wood and other similar materials.

The bird comes in contact with the organisms through contaminated feed, litter or
premises. The disease is not contagious and does not spread from one bird to
another. Most healthy birds can withstand repeated exposure to these
organisms. Inhalation of large amounts of the infectious form of the mold or
reduced resistance of the bird apparently results in infection. In adult turkeys, the
disease more often affects the male.

In the acute form in young birds, main symptoms are gasping, sleepiness, loss of
appetite and sometimes convulsions and death. Occasionally the organism
invades the brain, causing paralysis or other forms of nervous symptoms. The
more chronic form in older birds usually results in loss of appetite, gasping or
coughing and a rapid loss of body weight. Mortality is usually low and only a few
birds are affected at one time.

The disease produces hard nodular areas in the lungs and an infection of the air
sacs. Sometimes the air sac lesions are similar to those produced by infectious
sinusitis or CRD. In some birds, colonies of mold growth can be seen on the air
sac membranes.

Diagnosis is usually made from history, symptoms and lesions. It may be

necessary to base diagnosis on microscopic lesions.

The disease can usually be prevented by avoiding moldy litter, feed or premises.
There is no treatment for the affected flock. Cleaning and disinfecting the
equipment is often helpful.


It is known that certain strains of fungi (molds) growing in feed or feed ingredients
can produce toxins that, when eaten by man or animals, can cause a very lethal
disease called mycotoxicosis. The toxins produced by these fungi are very toxic
and rivals the botulism toxin for toxicity.

Mycotoxicosis is caused by ingestion of toxic substances produced by molds

growing on feed, feed ingredients and possibly litter. Several types of fungi
produce toxins that may cause problems in poultry, but of primary concern are
substances produced by the Aspergillus flavus fungi and are thus called
aflatoxins. Aspergillus flavus is a common mold that grows on many substances,
and grows especially well on grain and nuts. Several other fungi also produce
toxins that cause the disease.

The aflatoxins include four closely related metabolites of A. flavus known as B1,
B2, G and G2. The B1 toxin is the most toxic and is of greatest concern to the
poultry industry.

Mold toxins cause a wide variety of signs, many difficult to recognize. The
aflatoxins under certain conditions cause death, reduced growth, reduced egg
production, reduced hatchability, signs associated with "physiological stress" and
impaired ability to develop immunity to infectious agents. Diagnosis is difficult
because characteristic lesions usually are not present, and detection of the toxin
is not conclusive.

Molds are widespread in nature. Standing grains and other feed substances are
frequently infected with toxin-producing molds prior to harvest. The key is proper
storage to control moisture and temperature to reduce growth of the molds while
in storage. Although the mold is present, it cannot produce toxic products unless
allowed to grow freely. Aflatoxins in feeds can be detected by chemical tests.
Once the toxin is produced there is no known method for removing it from the
feed or cancelling its harmful effects. Providing a diet containing high fat and high
protein levels and augmenting the ration with vitamin supplements may be of

Moniliasis (Crop Mycosis, Thrush)

This is a disease that primarily affects the upper digestive tract of all birds and is
characterized by whitish thickened areas of the crop and proventriculus, erosions
in the gizzard, and inflammation of the vent area. It is caused by a yeast-like
fungus (Candida albicans).

Poultry of all ages are susceptible to the effects of this organism. Chickens,
turkeys, pigeons, pheasants, quail and grouse are species most commonly
affected as well as other domestic animals and humans. The Candida organism
is widely spread throughout the poultry producing areas of the world.

Moniliasis is transmitted by ingestion of the causative organism in infected feed,

water or environment. Unsanitary and unclean water troughs are an excellent
reservoir of the Candida organism. The disease does not however, spread
directly from bird to bird. The organism grows especially well on corn, so infection
can be introduced by feeding moldy feed.

This malady produces no specific symptoms. Young birds become listless, pale,
show ruffled feathers and appear unthrifty. Affected caged layer hens become
obese and anemic. Some birds exhibit a vent inflammation that resembles a
diarrhea induced condition having whitish incrustations of the feathers and skin
around the area. Feed consumption may increase by ten to twenty percent.

Gross lesions are mostly confined to the crop, proventriculus and gizzard. The
crop and proventriculus have whitish thickened areas that are often described as
having a "turkish towel" appearance. Erosion of the lining of the proventriculus
and gizzard is commonly observed, as well as an inflammation of the intestines.
Diagnosis is based on history and typical lesions in the flock. Confirmation of the
condition is by isolation and laboratory identification of the C. albicans organism.

Treatment of the flock with an antimycotic drug will control the infection. Many
broad spectrum antibiotics will enhance this disease; therefore they should not
be used until after control of this condition is completed. Addition of Nystatin (100
g/Ton) or copper sulfate (2-3 lb/Ton) to the feed for seven to ten days should
control moniliasis.

Once introduced into the flock, moniliasis is perpetuated by suboptimal

management conditions. Preventative measures include the continual use of
mold inhibitors in the feed, proper feed handling and storage, daily cleaning and
sanitizing of the watering system and periodic stirring and/or replacement of wet
litter areas to prevent caking. An inexpensive, yet effective, water treatment is the
continuous addition of household chlorine bleach to the drinking water at the rate
of five parts per million (ppm).Use of liquid toxin binder and simultaneous use of
immunomodulater and adaptogen and multivitamin B complex helps to reduces
the loss of production.


1. Diseases of Poultry, Eds. Calnek BW, Barnes HJ, Beard CW, Reid WM, Yoder
Jr., Iowa State University Press, Ames, IA, 9th ed., 1991

2. Avian Histopathology, Riddell C, American Association of Avian
Pathologists, Kennett Square, PA, 1987

3. A Color Atlas of Diseases of the Domestic Fowl and Turkey, Randall CJ, Iowa
State University Press, Ames, IA 1984

4. Tumors of the Fowl, Campbell JG, Wm. Heinemann Medical Books, Ltd,

5. Diseases of Pigeons. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal

Practice 17:1089-1107, 1987

6. Diseases of Quail. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal

Practice 17:1109-1144, 1987