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Investigation of a type C/D botulism outbreak in free-range laying hens in France

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In 2014, a botulism outbreak in a flock of laying hens was investigated in France. In the flock of 5020 hens, clinical signs of botulism occurred at 46 weeks of age. A type C/D botulism outbreak was confirmed using the mouse lethality assay for detection of botulinum toxin in serum and a real-time PCR test to detect Clostridium botulinum in intestinal contents. The disease lasted one week with a mortality rate of 2.6% without recurrence. Botulism in laying hens has rarely been reported. Five monthly visits were made to the farm between December 2014 and May 2015 for a longitudinal study of the persistence of C. botulinum in the poultry house after the outbreak, and to assess egg contamination by C. botulinum. Several samples were collected on each visit: in the house (from the ventilation circuit, the egg circuit, water and feed, droppings) and the surrounding area. Thirty clean and 30 dirty eggs were also swabbed at each visit. In addition, 12 dirty and 12 clean eggs were collected to analyse eggshell and egg content. The samples were analysed using real-time PCR to detect type C/D C. botulinum. The bacterium was still detected in the house more than 5 months after the outbreak, mostly on the walls and in the egg circuit. Regarding egg contamination, the bacteria were detected only on the shell but not in the content of the eggs. Control measures should therefore be implemented throughout the egg production period to avoid dissemination of the bacteria, particularly during egg collection.
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Keywords: Botulism; clostridium botulinum; epidemiology; laying hens; poultry

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: ANSES, French Agency for Food Environmental and Occupational Health Safety, Avian and Rabbit Epidemiology and Welfare Unit, University of Bretagne Loire, Ploufragan, France 2: ANSES, French Agency for Food Environmental and Occupational Health Safety, Hygiene and Quality of Poultry and Pig Products Unit, University of Bretagne Loire, Ploufragan, France 3: Celtivet, Ploumagoar, France 4: DDPP des Côtes d’Armor, Direction Départementale de la Protection des Populations, Ploufragan, France

Publication date: March 4, 2017

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