What is this needle-shaped microorganism?
May 3, 2006 7:27 PM   Subscribe

We got our Green-Cheek Conure about 10 days ago; he is about 4 months old. This afternoon at his checkup to make sure he was “fit for purchase,” a strange microorganism was found in his fecal sample. The vet had never seen it before. The microorganism is about equal in size to Megabacteria (i.e. really big for something microscopic) and it looks like a pine needle: a long, skinny, tapered cigar shape. Some of the pine needles have nodes in the center (see drawing inside for a rough visual interpretation.) Have any of you ever seen or heard of a microorganism like this? Research online has turned up nothing so far. Our best guess is that it is a yeast of some sort (like Megabacteria, also known as Avian Gastric Yeast.)

Some more info:
When the vet first looked into the microscope, she asked us what our bird had been eating- her first thought was that it might be something herbal or pollen-related. He hadn't been eating anything unusual, so this hypothesis was ruled out.

The bird has been on the calmer side of normal in behavior- there have been no overt signs of sickness. He does not look miserable. We were a little worried that his demeanor meant there was something wrong, but we dismissed those feelings as those of nervous new bird parents when his energy level increased considerably after the first few days living with us. He has a good appetite, and he loves to play with us and with his toys in his cage.

The microorganism's resemblance to Megabacteria, coupled with our bird's calmness (low energy?) and small size (scrawny?) relative to other Green-Cheeks (could be indicative of not feeling well,) prompted the vet to prescribe Clavamox and Nyastatin, which we will be giving to the bird for 14 days. If these drugs don't work we are going to try Amphotericin B.

We love our bird (his name is Virgil) and we are very worried. Any input would be appreciated.

P.S. Here is some megabacteria info:

Here is a drawing of the mystery organism.
posted by Infernarl to Science & Nature (3 answers total)
Sounds/looks like a worm. A trematode perhaps?

Bacteria the size of megabacteria are rare. The shape doesn't resemble yeast (yeast other single-cell organisms tend not to be sharp).

iirc, amphotericin B is a potent anti-fungal; and rather toxic to humans. Be careful.
posted by porpoise at 8:06 PM on May 3, 2006

icky anecdote - I was in a meeting with a former co-supervisor who was a medical doctor in the department of pathology at a Children's hospital; we were interrupted by a technician asking him for advice:

apparently, a during routine light microscopy examination of a paediatric stool (faecal) sample the technician saw something that looked like... sperm; the same size, similar shape, some motility (moving) - so she gets really concerned and asks my co-supervisor to a) confirm that it's human sperm, and b) what the hell to do.

anyway, I got a chance to look at it and while it was the right size, it looked more like your drawing than what human sperm looks like.

no, I never did get the definitive word on what it was/what went down

posted by porpoise at 8:11 PM on May 3, 2006

Try to find out the actual size (ie. in microns). So much of the differential diagnosis for pathogens in humans is based on the size. Your vet may not have a micrometer on his microscope. Ask him to send it to a veterinary pathologist or microbiologist. Otherwise just treat the bird. Amphotericin doesn't have great intestinal absorption (at least in humans) so they probably just flush them out with it.

Good luck with the birdie.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 7:40 AM on May 4, 2006

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