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Avian Pathol. 2013 Aug;42(4):316-22. doi: 10.1080/03079457.2013.798396. Epub 2013 May 30.

Pathogenicity of wild-type and small-colony variants of Streptococcus equi subsp. zooepidemicus in layer chickens.

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Department of Veterinary Disease Biology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen Frederiksberg C, Denmark.


Wild-type (WT) and small-colony-variant (SCV) strains of Streptococcus equi subsp. zooepidemicus have recently been isolated from a layer flock in Denmark experiencing high mortality. To investigate the disease-causing potential of SCV compared with WT, a 2-week long infection study was performed in 45-week-old brown layer chickens. Four groups of 11 chickens each were inoculated with a WT or SCV strain by the intravenous or intra-tracheal route: WT-IV, SCV-IV or WT-IT, SCV-IT, respectively. Clinical signs were observed in most chickens in the WT-IV group (9/11). Mortality was observed in the SCV-IV (4/11) and WT-IV (2/11) groups. Ten chickens in the WT-IV and WT-IT groups, respectively, developed gross lesions including oophoritis/peritonitis, hepatitis and airsacculitis cervicalis. Bronchopneumonia was common in the SCV-IT group (6/11), and valvular endocarditis in the SCV-IV group (4/11). Histological lesions in liver tissue were frequently observed in the chickens of the SCV-IV group (9/11), followed by the WT-IT (7/11), WT-IV (6/11), and SCV-IT (2/11) groups. The lesions in the SCV-IV group were dominated by deposition of eosinophilic material with infiltration of inflammatory cells (6/9). Bacteriological re-isolation of either strain type was achieved from all chickens of the WT-IV and WT-IT groups, and from nine and seven out of 11 chickens for each of the SCV-IV and SCV-IT groups, respectively. In summary, we were able to reproduce clinical signs and lesions as observed during the natural outbreak, which included an overall initial onset in WT-infected chickens as opposed to a late onset and possible recurring infection seen in the SCV-infected chickens.

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