Chlamydia psittaci

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Chlamydia psittaci (also known as Chlamydophila psittaci) is a gram-negative bacterium and a zoonotic agent that commonly infects parrots and many other avian species and it is pathogenic in humans. C. psittaci is a coccoid, obligate intracellular bacteria. There are 16 genotypes of C. psittaci.

Growth Conditions

Chlamydiae have two forms during the life cycle, the infectious form (elementary form) is small and relatively inert, and the non-infectious form called reticulate body. Chlamydia must be isolated in tissue culture, mice, or chick embryos

Health Hazards

Host Range

Mammals, including humans, exposed to birds or contaminated environments. Risk groups include bird owners, aviary and pet shop employees, poultry workers, and veterinarians.

Modes of Transmission

Birds are the natural reservoirs of C. psittaci and infection is usually acquired by inhaling dried secretions from infected birds.

Signs and Symptoms

In humans, fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a dry cough. Pneumonia is often evident on chest x-ray. Infected birds are often asymptomatic

Infectious DoseUnknown.
Incubation Period

5-19 days.

Medical Precautions/Treatment





Diagnosis & Treatment

Serologic tests are used for diagnosis and results often need to be confirmed using molecular techniques. Tetracyclines are the treatment of choice


Psittacosis is a reportable condition in most states.

Emory Requirements

Report all incidents using PeopleSoft.

Laboratory Hazards

Laboratory Acquired Infections (LAIs)

Outbreaks of psittacosis in poultry processing plants have been reported. The CDC BMBL lists infections by C. psittaci as one of the ten most frequent laboratory acquired bacterial infections


Contact with and exposure to infectious aerosols in handling, care, or necropsy of naturally or experimentally infected birds. C. psittaci may be present in feces, tissues, nasal secretions and blood of infected birds and in blood, sputum and tissues of infected humans

Supplemental References


BMBL 5th Ed. Accessed September 28, 2017
CDC. Compendium of measures to control Chlamydia psittaci infection among humans (psittacosis) and pet birds (avian chlamydiosis), 1998. MMWR 1998;47 (No. RR-10)- Accessed October 2, 2017

Public Health Agency of Canada

Pathogen Safety Data Sheet for Chlamydophila psittaci – Accessed October 2, 2017

Center for Food Security & Public Health - ISU

Psittacosis/Avian Chlamydiosis

Containment Requirements


BSL3 practices, containment equipment, and facilities are recommended for necropsy of infected animals and examination of tissues or cultures known to contain or be potentially infected with C. psittaci.
Special practices include wetting feathers of infected animals with a disinfectant prior to necropsy.

Spill Procedures


Notify others working in the lab. Allow aerosols to settle. Don appropriate PPE. An EPA-registered disinfectant should be used to remove contaminating matter from surfaces (e.g., of bench tops and equipment). All decontaminated litter and other disposable materials should be autoclaved.


For assistance, contact Emory’s Biosafety Officer (404-727-8863), or the EHSO Spill Team (404-727-2888)

Exposure Procedures

Mucous membrane

Flush eyes, mouth or nose for 15 minutes at eyewash station.

Other Exposures

Wash area with soap and water for 15 minutes.


Immediately report incident to supervisor, complete an employee incident report in PeopleSoft.

Medical Followup 

7am-4pm (OIM): EUH (404-686-7941) EUHM (404-686-7106) WW (404-728-6431)

After Hours: OIM NP On Call 404-686-5500 PIC# 50464

Needle Stick (OIM): EUH (404-686-8587) EUHM (404-686-2352)

Yerkes: Maureen Thompson Office (404-727-8012) Cell (404-275-0963)



Susceptible to quaternary ammonium, 70% isopropyl alcohol, 10% freshly prepared bleach.


It is expected to be susceptible to heat inactivation at 121°C for a minimum of 15 minutes (moist heat).

Survival Outside Host

C. psittaci elementary bodies (infectious form) can remain infectious in the environment for months. It has been reported to survive for 15 days on dry inanimate surfaces.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Minimum PPE Requirements

Personnel handling potentially infected birds are required to don two pairs of gloves, closed toed shoes, booties/shoe covers, lab coat, appropriate face and eye protection, and N-95 respirator. Additional PPE may be required depending on lab specific SOPs. Practice strict hand washing technique.

Additional Precautions

All procedures that may produce aerosols, or involve high concentrations or large volumes should be done in a BSC.