We conducted laboratory challenge trials using mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) to compare methods for detecting carriers of Pasteurella multocida, the bacterium that causes avian cholera, in wild birds. Birds that survived the initial infection were euthanized at 2–4 wk intervals up to 14 wk post challenge. Isolates of P. multocida were obtained at necropsy from 23% of the birds that survived initial infection. We found that swab samples (oral, cloacal, nasal, eye, and leg joint) were most effective for detecting carrier birds up to 14 wk post infection. No detectable differences in isolation were observed for samples stored in either 10% dimethysulfoxide or brain heart infusion broth. The frequency of detecting carriers in our challenge trials appeared to be related to mortality rates observed during the trial, but was not related to a number of other factors including time after challenge, time delays in collecting tissues postmortem, and route of infection. In our trials, there was little association between antibody levels and carrier status. We concluded that swabs samples collected from recently dead birds, stored in liquid nitrogen, and processed using selective broth provide a feasible field method for detecting P. multocida carriers in wild waterfowl.

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