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Pigeon Breeder's Lung

Pigeon Breeder's Disease

Pigeon breeder's lung is a form of hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which is caused by repetitive exposure to pigeon antigen. The clinical manifestations are classified according to the phase, which is acute, subacute, or chronic. The diagnosis is based on the clinical picture, environmental and patient history, physical exam, and the appropriate studies.


Pigeon breeder's lung (PBL) is an extrinsic allergic alveolitis secondary to inhalation of pigeon antigen [1]. Specifically, this ailment stems from persistent exposure to droppings as well as feather and serum proteins of pigeons and other birds. Hypersensitivity pneumonia is frequently caused by avian antigens [2], which emerge from both domestic exposure [3] and the global poultry handling industry.

The clinical presentation of symptomatic hypersensitivity pneumonitis is characterized as acute, subacute, or chronic, which is associated with symptoms of differing intensity and timing [4] [5]. Acute cases develop hours post exposure and resolve hours to days after withdrawal of exposure. Patients will experience fever, cough, headache, dyspnea, malaise, and chills. The subacute disease is characterized by an insidious onset that may take weeks to months, in which there is a progressive cough, shortness of breath and possibly anorexia. Chronic manifestations of this condition include fatigue, persistent cough, worsening dyspnea, anorexia, and weight loss [6]. Patients with pigeon breeder's lung do not respond to anti-asthma therapy.


One potential long-term sequela of this disease is the progression to irreversible fibrosis or other structural abnormalities [3] [7].

Physical exam

Vital signs in acute episodes are notable for fever, tachycardia, tachypnea, and oxygen desaturation [6]. The lung exam may be remarkable for use of accessory muscles. Findings on auscultation may include bibasilar crackles.

Patients with chronic disease appear cachectic [6] and exhibit clubbing, weight loss, inspiratory crackles, and signs of respiratory distress.

  • Chronic manifestations of this condition include fatigue, persistent cough, worsening dyspnea, anorexia, and weight loss. Patients with pigeon breeder's lung do not respond to anti-asthma therapy.[symptoma.com]
  • Additional symptoms may include chills, sweating, aching, and fatigue. Most cases involve typical episodes that are mild and short and may be misdiagnosed.[healthcentral.com]
  • The subacute form is characterized by the insidious onset of productive cough, dyspnea, and fatigue over weeks to months. Chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis is characterized by long-term progressive dyspnea, weight loss, cough, and fatigue.[amboss.com]
  • The chronic form of hypersensitivity pneumonia results from long term low-grade exposure, and is characterized by dyspnea, chronic cough, fatigue, anorexia and weight loss. PFT typically reveals a restrictive pattern and a decrease in DLCO.[indianpediatrics.net]
  • In the chronic form there is usually anorexia, weight loss, extreme fatigue and progressive pulmonary fibrosis, which is generally the most serious consequence of the disease because it irreversibly and increasingly diminishes the lungs' efficiency over[en.wikipedia.org]
Exposure to Pigeon Droppings
  • Researchers suggest that just as long-term exposure to cockroaches and mice can lead to allergic conditions in senstive individuals, so also can long term exposure to pigeon droppings.[wildlifecontrolconsultant.com]
Vascular Disease
  • Common differentials include other interstitial lung diseases which include immune-mediated collagen vascular diseases, sarcoidosis, langerhans cell histiocytosis and malignancies [7-8].[indianpediatrics.net]
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In addition to evaluation of the clinical picture, diagnosis of pigeon breeder's lung is achieved by assessing the patient's environmental exposures [3], detailed history, physical exam, and the appropriate studies. It is also important to rule out differential diagnoses such as tuberculosis, sarcoidosis, connective tissue diseases, mycoplasma, allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, Langerhans cell histiocytosis, malignancies and others [6] [8] [9].

Some authors argue that a diagnosis is achieved by demonstration of specific antibodies, a positive skin prick test, and cessation of symptoms following the withdrawal of exposure [10] [11].


Common findings include neutrophilia (acute cases). Moreover, tests will show elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and C-reactive protein (CRP).


Chest radiography in acute hypersensitivity pneumonitis reveals poorly defined micronodular or interstitial patterns while chronic cases typically feature progressive fibrosis and linear opacities.

High-resolution CT (HRCT) scanning in acutely ill patients displays ground-glass opacities that are particularly observed in the lower lobes [12]. In the chronic phase, HRCT displays fibrotic changes, centrilobular nodular lesions, honeycombing, traction bronchiectasis, ground glass attenuation, and irregular linear opacities [2] [3] [7].


Pulmonary function tests are important components of the workup. Acute cases will demonstrate a restrictive pattern in which the total lung capacity and forced vital capacity are diminished. Chronic disease is associated with either a restrictive or a mixed picture with both obstructive and restrictive pattern.

Additionally, the diffusing capacity of lungs for carbon monoxide (DLCO) is decreased [6]. The inhalation challenge is another test in which the patient is exposed to the offending agent for confirmation.

Cytology on specimens from bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) may be inconclusive [6] but will typically display lymphocytosis [13]. A lung biopsy is not necessary, but findings such as foamy histiocytes from interstitial and alveolar samples are consistent with hypersensitivity pneumonia [2] [14].

  • Our results showed a significant increase of the antigen HLA-DR7 (corrected P less than 0.001) in patients with pigeon breeder's lung and an equally important difference in the delta values of the haplotypes A1-B8, A25-B14, B35-DR4, and B4-DR5.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]


  • Phytohaemagglutinin responsiveness was not affected by the hydrocortisone treatment. This may indicate difference between the cell populations that respond, after steroid treatment, to antigen and to mitogenic stimulation.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • All cases responded to steroid treatment, and at the end of the third month, HRCT findings disappeared.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Treatment Identification and, if possible, avoidance of the irritant are the initial concerns of treatment. In an occupational setting, improved ventilation and air filtering masks are recommended for mild symptoms.[healthcentral.com]
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  • Early treatment leads to complete reversal in acute and sub-acute hypersensitivity pneumonia. Chronic form may proceed to irreversible lung damage in spite of treatment and avoidance of the offending antigen.[indianpediatrics.net]


  • Prognosis Favorable in the acute stage, but the disease recurs and worsens upon re-exposure Worsens with severity of fibrosis References: [4][amboss.com]


  • Exposures to avian antigens must be considered in patients with obstructive lung disease of unknown etiology.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Etiology Combined type III and type IV hypersensitivity reaction with genetic predisposition Inhalation of organic particles ; ( 5 microns ), primarily through occupational exposure (notifiable occupational disease) Smokers are less likely to be symptomatic[amboss.com]


  • Although the pathogenic mechanism is unclear, the epidemiology of BFL shows that it occurs worldwide, and has been described in adults keeping birds and also in their children.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Sex distribution
Age distribution


  • Evaluation Exercise Equipment Mobility Modalities Orthopedics Pediatrics Rehab Supplies Sensory Motor Splinting Tourniquet and Cuff Treatment Furniture Wheelchair Wound & Scar Care Dental Education and Marketing Exam and Hygiene Gifts Home Care and Preventive[berktree.com]
  • […] by plant pathogens, particularly by species of Fusarium, Aspergillus and Penicillium, their occurrence in infected plants, as well as their role in the plant-pathogen interaction, for example as virulence/pathogenicity factors, is a pre-requisite for preventing[books.google.it]



  1. Rodrigo M, Benavent M, Cruz M, et al. Detection of specific antibodies to pigeon serum and bloom antigens by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay in pigeon breeder’s disease. Occup Environ Med. 2000;57(3):159-164.
  2. Kurup VP, Zacharisen MC, Fink JN. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Indian J Chest Dis Allied Sci. 2006;48(2):115-128.
  3. Funke M, Fellrath JM. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis secondary to lovebirds: a new cause of bird fancier's disease. Eur Respir J. 2008;32(2):517-521.
  4. Lacasse Y, Girard M, Cormier Y. Recent advances in hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Chest. 2012;142(1):208-217.
  5. Fink JN, Sosman AJ, Barboriak JJ, Schlueter DP, Holmes RA. Pigeon breeders' disease. A clinical study of a hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Ann Intern Med. 1968;68(6):1205-1219.
  6. Tsanglao WR, Nandan D, Chandelia S, Bhardwaj M. Chronic Hypersensitivity Pneumonia due to Pigeon Breeders Disease. Indian Pediatr. 2017;54(1):55-57.
  7. Morell F, Roger A, Reyes L, Cruz MJ, Murio C, Muñoz X. Bird fancier's lung: a series of 86 patients. Medicine (Baltimore). 2008;87(2):110–130.
  8. Fan LL, Deterding RR, Langston C. Pediatric interstitial lung disease revisited. Pediatr Pulmonol. 2004;38(5):369-78.
  9. Deutsch GH, Young LR, Deterding RR, Fan LL, Dell SD, Bean JA, et al. Diffuse lung disease in young children:
    application of a novel classification scheme. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2007;176(11):1120-1128.
  10. Morell F, Curull V, Orriols R, et al. Skin test in bird breeder’s disease. Thorax. 1986;41(7):538–41.
  11. Richerson HB, Bernstein IL, Fink JN, et al. Guidelines for the clinical evaluation of hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Report of the Subcommittee on Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol.1989;84(5 Pt 2):839–844.
  12. Lynch DA, Rose CS, Way D, King TE Jr. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis: sensitivity of high-resolution CT in a population-based study. Am J Roentgenol. 1992;159(3):469-472.
  13. Ratjen F, Costabel U, Griese M, Paul K. Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid findings in children with hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Eur Respir J. 2003;21(1):144-148.
  14. Riley DJ, Saldana M. Pigeon breeder’s lung. Subacute course and the importance of indirect exposure. Am Rev Respir Dis. 1973;107(3):456-460.

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Last updated: 2019-07-11 21:06