Attempts to reproduce malabsorption syndrome (MAS) by oral inoculation with several different combinations including intestinal homogenate, reovirus, and hemolytic Escherichia coli obtained from MAS-affected chickens and intestinal homogenate from healthy chickens (healthy homogenate) were performed in 1-day-old specific-pathogen-free (SPF) broilers. The MAS homogenate, serving as a positive control, induced weight gain depression and intestinal lesions such as cystic crypts of Lieberkühn, villus atrophy, and lymphoid and/or granulocytic infiltration. The healthy homogenate, the formalin-treated MAS homogenate, the formalin-treated healthy homogenate, and phosphate-buffered saline caused neither weight gain depression nor intestinal lesions. We were able to reproduce both weight gain depression and intestinal lesions by inoculation of reovirus either combined with the formalin-treated MAS homogenate or combined with healthy homogenate. Surprisingly, when hemolytic E. coli was added to the combination of reovirus with formalin-treated MAS homogenate, this did not cause weight gain depression although this combination caused the described intestinal lesions. Identical results were obtained with the combination of formalin-treated MAS homogenate with hemolytic E. coli or the combination of reovirus with hemolytic E. coli. The intestinal lesions were more severe and developed faster by combinations including reovirus and formalin-treated MAS homogenate. This study indicates that a combination of enteropathogenic reovirus with other agents or substances that are present in an intestinal homogenate from MAS-affected and healthy chickens can induce MAS in SPF broilers. Escherichia coli is not essential for induction of weight gain depression but can play a role in development of intestinal lesions. Furthermore, intestinal lesions alone will not always result in weight gain depression.
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Vol. 46 • No. 1