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Open Access Molecular epidemiology of unilateral amyloid arthropathy in broiler breeders associated with Enterococcus faecalis

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Although symmetrical polyarticular amyloidosis has been described extensively in brown layers, spontaneous unilateral amyloid arthropathy has not been described previously in chickens. Birds from nine flocks of broiler parent stock (PS) had unilateral lameness associated with severe swelling of the left hock joint and the caudal aspect of the metatarsus. Gross pathology was restricted to the left hock joint and the left digital flexor tendons in almost all cases, suggesting an association with administration of Marek's disease vaccine. Amyloid deposits were found in 83% (25/30) of affected joints by histological examination of Congo red stained sections. Systemic amyloidosis, involving mainly the liver and spleen, was found in 59% (10/17) of birds. Enterococcus faecalis was isolated from joints in 77% (23/30) of cases and Staphylococcus aureus was isolated from the joint in one case (1/30).

Thirty-five E. faecalis isolates from joints, tendons and blood samples from birds in five affected PS flocks were compared using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to separate genomic fragments after digestion with SmaI. All but one isolate had identical or closely related restriction endonuclease digestion (RED) patterns that were very similar to a known arthropathic and amyloidogenic E. faecalis isolate. A further 30 E. faecalis isolates from seven grandparent stock (GPS) flocks and two isolates from two unaffected PS flocks of the same genetic background were analysed by PFGE. Among these isolates, 11 originating from four GPS flocks had RED patterns identical to or closely related to the reference amyloid-inducing strain. Moreover, one E. faecalis isolate from amyloidotic joints of brown layers housed in California, USA was included in the analysis and appeared to be identical to the reference strain.

This study showed that the E. faecalis isolates involved in these outbreaks of unilateral amyloid arthropathy in broiler breeders belonged to the same clone as that responsible for outbreaks in brown layers.

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Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: 1: Veterinary Centre Someren, Someren, The Netherlands 2: Institute for Animal Science and Health (ID), Lelystad, The Netherlands 3: Animal Health Service, Poultry Health Centre, P.O. Box 9, 7400 AA Deventer, The Netherlands; [email protected]

Publication date: February 1, 2002

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