- In broiler operations, various health problems develop during the final two weeks of the growing period, resulting in increased mortality and condemnation losses. At this stage, sickly birds were found to be systemically infected by various bacteria regardless of varied clinical signs. The main objective of the present study was to determine the prevalence and nature of systemic bacterial infections in unthrifty commercial broiler chickens and to establish a reproducible infection model in the laboratory.
Thirty-one unthrifty 6-week-old broilers were obtained from three farms, and bacterial isolations were conducted on blood, liver, and hock joint. Bacteria were isolated from 87, 90, and 71% of the blood, liver and hock joint samples, respectively. Mean bacterial counts (log₁₀ CFU/ml or g) of the blood and liver were 2.15 and 2.93, respectively. Among 132 bacterial isolates, major species were; Staphylococcus (60%), Corynebacterium (18%), Escherichia coli (5%), and Stomatococcus (4%). Among 79 Staphylococcus isolates, 77 were coagulase-negative. Major species of staphylococci
were; S. lentus (19%), S. simulans (18%), S. cohnii (13%), S. gallinarum (10%) and
S. captis (7%). In addition, 6 species of gram-positive and 5 species of gram-negative organisms were isolated. Apparently systemic infections were not caused by predominant pathogenic bacterial species, and adequately described as mixed infections. However, there were some significant relationships between isolated bacterial species and sampling sites, suggesting that certain organisms were abundant in the environment of a particular poultry house. These results indicate that systemic infections in market age broilers are caused by mixed bacterial species and suggest that they are caused by suppressed host antibacterial systems rather than pathogenic factors of microorganisms. Antibiotic susceptibility results showed 100% susceptibility of staphylococcal isolates (n=69) against vancomycin and enrofloxacin. Of these coagulase negative staphylococci showed 19% and 73% resistance against methicillin and penicillin G, respectively. There was also heterogeneity in antibiogram profiles within species of coagulase-negative staphylococci.
Pathogenicity of representative field isolates from the above described study was tested in 5-day-old embryonated eggs and in 3- week-old broiler chicks. Consistent lethality was demonstrated with S. aureus in embryos. Staphylococcus intermedius or S. lentus demonstrated some pathogenicity, while S. gallinarum or Corynebacterium were non-pathogenic in embryos. In 3-week-old broilers, however, only S. aureus caused septicemia and death; other bacterial species mentioned above caused neither clinical signs of acute or chronic staphylococcosis nor mortality.