Proventriculitis in broilers causes carcass condemnation when swollen proventriculi tear during evisceration. The cause of this proventriculitis is unknown, but several infectious agents have been associated with it. One such agent, infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV), has been implicated as a cause of proventriculitis, but a direct effect of this virus on the proventriculus has not been proven. The role of IBDV in proventriculitis may be indirect as a result of its ability to cause immunosuppression. The objective of this study was to understand how immunosuppression affects the incidence of proventriculitis in broiler chickens. Immunosuppression was induced in commercial and specific-pathogen-free broiler chickens using chemicals (cyclophosphamide and cyclosporin) or virus (IBDV). All groups were then exposed to a proventricular homogenate produced from diseased birds. At 7 and 14 days postinoculation, the incidence of proventriculitis in these groups was compared to that produced by homogenate exposure in immunocompetent broilers. All birds exposed to the proventricular homogenate from diseased birds developed proventriculitis. Cyclophosphamide and IBDV, both B cell suppressors, did not significantly affect the incidence or characteristics of the proventriculitis observed, although they did have an effect on the size of the proventriculus at 7 days postinoculation. Chickens immunosuppressed with cyclosporin, a T cell suppressor, developed more severe lesions and had a higher incidence of proventriculitis. These findings indicate that both B and T cells are involved in the immune response against proventriculitis, but cell-mediated immunity appears to have a more important role in controlling the disease. IBDV affects both humoral and cellular immunity in the chicken, so although under experimental conditions it didn't have a major effect on proventriculitis, it may explain why control of IBDV in the field seems to reduce the incidence of proventriculitis.
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Vol. 48 • No. 2