Prevalence and disease association of intestinal spirochaetes in chickens in eastern Australia

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

60 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-454
Journal / PublicationAvian Pathology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1999
Externally publishedYes


Faecal samples (n = 1786) from chickens in broiler breeder (n = 28), layer (n = 22) or broiler (n = 19) flocks in the eastern states of Australia were cultured for intestinal spirochaetes. Overall, birds in 42.9% of broiler breeder and 68.2% of layer flocks were colonized with spirochaetes, but no birds in broiler flocks were infected. Colonization rates in infected flocks ranged from 10 to 100% of birds sampled. Faeces from colonized flocks were on average 14% wetter than those from non-colonized flocks. There was a highly significant association between colonization with spirochaetes and the occurrence of wet litter and/or reduced production. A subset of 57 spirochaete isolates from birds in 16 flocks were identified to the species level using a panel of polymerase chain reaction tests. Isolates from nine (56%) of these flocks were spirochaetes that are known to be pathogens of poultry: Serpulina pilosicoli was isolated from birds from five flocks, birds from two flocks were infected with Serpulina intermedia, and in two other flocks both species were identified. Isolates from the other seven flocks belonged to other Serpulina species, which are currently of unknown pathogenicity. This study indicates that infections with intestinal spirochaetes are a common but currently under-diagnosed cause of wet litter and/or reduced egg production in broiler breeder and layer flocks in Australia.