Detection of Chlamydophila psittaci from feral pigeons in environmental samples: problems with currently available techniques.
Chlamydophila psittaci (Lillie, 1930) Everett et al., 1999, the pathogenic agent of human ornithosis, is widespread in feral pigeon populations and many cases of transmission from feral pigeons to humans have been reported. The aim of the present study was to detect C. psittaci in environmental samples to find out more about possible transmission routes and, therefore, to assess the zoonotic risk for humans. Fecal samples were collected from nest boxes in a feral pigeon loft. Additionally, samples were taken from the feather dust film covering the water surface of public fountains where pigeons regularly bathe. The samples were tested for the presence of chlamydial antigen using an antigen enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to prove shedding of C. psittaci by feral pigeons. This test detects a genus specific lipopolysaccharide in the outer membrane of the chlamydial bacteria. Samples were tested using the IDEIA PCE Chlamydia Test kit (DakoCytomation) and positive results were verified with IDEIA Chlamydia Blocking Reagents (DakoCytomation). The IDEIA PCE Chlamydia Test yields a high proportion of positive results. However, when IDEIA Chlamydia Blocking was performed, most of the positive results turned out to be negative or could not be interpreted. We conclude that antigen-enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay tests are not suitable for detecting C. psittaci in environmental samples. Previous publications where no blocking test was used should be reconsidered critically.