Case Report

Incidental Mycobacterium-induced granulomatous inflammation of the follicular pharyngeal tonsils in a South African farmed ostrich (Struthio camelus)

Martina R. Crole, John T. Soley, Sarah J. Clift
Journal of the South African Veterinary Association | Vol 84, No 1 | a961 | DOI: | © 2013 Martina R. Crole, John T. Soley, Sarah J. Clift | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 20 November 2012 | Published: 30 October 2013

About the author(s)

Martina R. Crole, Department of Anatomy and Physiology, University of Pretoria, South Africa
John T. Soley, Department of Anatomy and Physiology, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Sarah J. Clift, Department of Paraclinical Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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Avian mycobacteriosis (AM) is a zoonotic disease caused by Mycobacterium aviumcomplex (MAC), which can spread from avians to other farmed animals such as cattle and pigs as well as to humans. This study is the first report of granulomatous inflammation, as a result of avian mycobacteriosis, in the follicular pharyngeal tonsils of a farmed ostrich. The head of an apparently healthy farmed adult ostrich was obtained after slaughter. Each pharyngeal fold displayed a large tissue mass. This tissue was routinely prepared for light microscopy and stained with haematoxylin and eosin, periodic acid Schiff, Grocott methenamine silver, Gram and Ziehl-Neelsen. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) were performed to identify Mycobacterium spp. and Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, respectively. Histologically, the tissue masses consisted of confluent mature micro-granulomata that were characterised by central caseous necrosis surrounded by multinucleated giant cells, macrophages and lymphoid cells and an outer mature fibrous connective tissue capsule. Within some foci of caseous necrosis were variably sized colonies of small, Gram-negative, acid-fast bacilli, which showed positive IHC labelling for Mycobacterium spp., leading to a presumptive diagnosis of AM. PCR thus proved useful in excluding the presence of notifiable Mycobacteriumspp. The significance and role of the pharyngeal tonsils of ratites in diseases such as AM warrant specific attention. Moreover, as ratites are known to present with AM infections with apparently no visible loss in body condition, as presumably occurred in the present case, it is imperative that unusual masses in apparently healthy ratites be thoroughly investigated.


Mycobacterium; Pharyngeal tonsils; Ostrich; Struthio camelus; Granulomatous inflammation


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