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Avian botulism, the reason for deaths of migratory birds

Date: 23 November 2019 Tags: Biodiversity


The mass death of migratory birds at the Sambhar Lake in Rajasthan occurred due to avian botulism according to the report of Bareilly's Indian Veterinary Research Institute.



Bird-watchers and other visitors to the lake discovered thousands of birds dead or dying around Sambhar Lake, which is India’s largest inland saltwater body.



  • C. botulinum produces the toxins in anoxic, i.e. low-oxygen, conditions, which effectively implies the state government will have to clean up Sambhar Lake.

  • Botulism outbreaks are likely to become more frequent as climate change alters wetland conditions to favour bacteria and pathogens.

Avian botulism

  • Avian Botulism is a strain of botulism that usually affects wild and captive bird populations, most notably waterfowl. This is a paralytic disease brought on by the Botulinum neurotoxin (BoNt) of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum.

  • Avian botulism is the result of deadly toxins secreted by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Upon ingestion, they cause paralysis, which then interferes with critical functions and causes death.

  • The bacteria is commonly found in the soil, river, and sea water. There are around eight types A, B, C1, C2, D, E, F, and G of botulinum toxin and they are distinguishable when diagnosed. But all types of toxins attack the neurons, which leads to muscle paralysis.

  • Avian botulism is not contagious in that it is not spread from bird to bird. Instead it is spread to birds through their consumptions of maggots infected with the toxin.

  • When an infected bird dies the maggots that feed off of it become infected themselves. These maggots are in turn consumed by additional birds

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