Pigeon breeders and fanciers may suffer from a severe debilitating breathlessness after exposure to avian allergens. The disease is sometimes referred to as pigeon breeder's lung, bird fancier's lung (BFL) or hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and is a collection of allergic lung diseases caused by the inhalation of antigenic organic particles or fumes. It can develop many years after the exposure. Chronic disease may progress to irreversible disease.
Hypersensitivity pneumonitis has been reported most commonly in pigeon breeders, but many different types of birds may cause the disease including parrots, lovebirds, canaries, and budgerigars. Some cases result from exposure to poultry.
Excreted intestinal mucin and immunoglobulins A and G from bird droppings and bloom (a waxy powder that coats the feathers of pigeons and serves as waterproofing) are highly allergenic and are the likely major sources for inhalant bird antigen. Cleaning of bird cages and walking through enclosed pigeon cages are associated with more intense exposure and hence an increased risk for pneumonitis in the susceptible individuals. Feather duvets and pillows can induce acute and chronic pneumonitis.2
Hypersensitivity pneumonitis has also been associated with the inhalation of spores produced by Stachybotrys chartarum fungal species.
During and after the exposure the lun tissue undergo irreversible histological changes characterised by non-necrotising granulomas, chronic inflammatory change in small airways and widespread infiltrates of chronic inflammatory cells. Affected individuals experience fatigue, appetite loss, cough, and weight loss. 1
The prognosis depends on a number of factors: duration of exposure, lung tissue changes, acute, sub-acute, or chronic form of the disease, age, intensity of exposure, and lung function abnormality. The recommended and most effective treatment for BFL is immediate removal of the birds in the environment and avoidance of re-exposure to bird antigens. Continuous re-exposure carries the risk of progressive lung damage.3
- Pigeon fanciers lung: a case report. PA MehtaEmail author, P Wills, SK Kohli and SW Dubrey. Cases Journal20081:37 DOI: 10.1186/1757-1626-1-37
- Chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Carlos AC Pereira,1 Andréa Gimenez,2 Lilian Kuranishi,2 and Karin Storrer2 J Asthma Allergy. 2016; 9: 171–181.
- Bird fanciers’ lung induced by exposure to duck and goose feathers. Chad J. Cooper,A,B,C,D,E,F Mohamed Teleb,A,B,C,E Sherif Elhanafi,F Shajeea Ajmal,A,B,E and German T. HernandezA Am J Case Rep. 2014; 15: 155–158.