Alongside birds and bird rescue, my other passion in life is herbs! Many of our medications, both human and animal are derived from plants and so it's no surprise to me that there is a crossover between my passions.
I spend a lot of time, when the shop is quiet, researching and looking for new products, recipes and treatments to give birds and mammals the best chance to recover from their interactions with humans.
Over recent years, there has been much discussion about resistance to antibiotics, but alongside this problem another was being witnessed first hand, the resistance of Trichomonas gallinae, also known as Canker or Frounce, to the usual medications such as Carnidazole (Spartrix). My personal opinion is that this resistance is due to unnecessary overuse in the Racing Pigeon World but nevertheless we are where we are.
Trichomonas gallinae is a motile single celled protozoan that lives in the sinuses, mouth and throat of birds and which, under certain conditions, can multiply out of control. It has become a well known garden disease after the noticeable effect that it has had on Greenfinches in recent years.
Rescue Centres tend to see it more in pigeons and doves, as well as the Birds of Prey that feed on birds such as Sparrowhawks, Kestrels and Tawny Owls.It is most prevalent in warm, damp weather, particularly late Summer/early Autumn.
Characterised by yellow/white lesions in the mouth and throat of the bird, a thick, mucoid saliva and swellings around the eyes, the organism will grow until eventually the bird cannot feed properly and dies of starvation or predation. The more advanced the disease is, the more difficult it is to treat.
Medications such as Metronidazole are now becoming less effective and can cause neurological issues if dosed incorrectly which means that it has an upper limit of effectiveness and the newer favoured drug, Ronidazole is effective but can actually work so fast that it damages surrounding tissue.
So, enter a new potential treatment, Pulicaria dysenterica, ie Common Fleabane!
A 2018 study by the Department of Pathobiology at Amol University in Iran on both P dysenterica and Lycopus europaeus also known as gypsywort has found that a methanol extract of both, ie a Tincture, revealed significant growth inhibitory effect on T. gallinae, suggesting the potential use of these plants in preparation of new anti-trichomonas compounds.
I am concentrating on Fleabane, just because I am more familiar with this plant which has a wider distribution, but both plants showed similar results in studies. The chart below shows the efficacy of P dystenterica at various doses compared to Metronidazole.
The study found that exposure to the methanolic extract of P. dysenterica at 200, 100, and 50mg/mL concentrations resulted in 100% cell death of T galinae trophozoites within 6 hours.
It is of course very promising that the study demonstrated that even low concentrations of the extract of could eliminate T. gallinae. At the highest dose, the extract showed an immediate 10% decrease in motility with complete loss of motility within 3 to 6 hours, meaning that the the higher the concentration of the extract and the longer the application time, the more significant the lethal effects of the extract are.
The results of this study support the possibility of using the methanolic extract of P dysenterica as an anti-trichomonas agent at several concentrations and can suggest the potential use for treating metronidazole-resistant isolates of T. gallinae. However, as this is a lab study at the this stage, more comprehensive studies are needed to survey the activities of extracts of P. dysenterica in in vivo conditions