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Avian Dis. 2000 Apr-Jun;44(2):256-65.

Identifying agent(s) associated with poult enteritis mortality syndrome: importance of the thymus.

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Southeast Poultry Research Lab, USDA-ARS, Athens, GA 30605, USA.


Poult enteritis mortality syndrome (PEMS), a highly infectious disease of young turkeys, causes serious financial losses to the turkey industry. Clinically, PEMS is defined by mortality profiles, diarrhea, growth depression, and immunosuppression. Although many viruses, bacteria, and parasites are found in PEMS-infected birds, the inciting agent remains unknown. Experimentally, PEMS can be reproduced by exposing naïve poults to the intestinal contents from infected birds. Previous reports suggest that extraintestinal tissues fail to reproduce the disease. Histopathologic examination of tissues from PEMS-infected poults suggested that the thymus exhibited the earliest signs of pathology. On the basis of these observations, we hypothesized that the thymus harbors an agent(s) involved in PEMS. In these studies, naïve turkey poults were orally inoculated with a bacteria-free filtrate composed of either the intestines and feces or the thymus from PEMS-infected birds and were monitored for clinical signs of PEMS. Poults exposed to a filtrate composed solely of the thymus from PEMS-infected birds exhibited diarrhea, growth depression, mortality, pathology, and, most importantly, immunosuppression similar to poults exposed to the intestinal filtrate. The results of this study suggest that the thymus of infected birds harbors the agent(s) that can reproduce a PEMS-like disease in turkey poults.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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