The intestinal tract and intestinal contents were collected from 34 stunted, 5-to-14-day-old broiler chicks from eight flocks with runting and stunting syndrome (RSS) in Northern Germany to investigate intestinal lesions and the presence of enteric pathogens with a special focus on rotaviruses (RVs). Seven chicks from a healthy flock were used as controls. Severe villous atrophy was seen in chicks from six flocks with RSS but not in the control flock. Lesions were often “regionally” distributed in the middle-to-distal small intestine. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM), polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis (PAGE), reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), and seminested RT-PCR were used for detection and characterization of RVs. The PAGE allows discrimination of different RV groups, and the RT-PCR was used to verify the presence of group (gp) A RVs. RVs were detected (by all methods) in 32 of 34 chicks from the flocks with RSS. By TEM (negative staining), RV particles were observed in intestinal contents of 28 chicks from the flocks with RSS. PAGE analysis showed four RV groups: gpA, gpD, gpF, and gpG. Group A RVs were detected in four chicks from two flocks with RSS, without intestinal lesions. GpD RVs were detected in 12 chicks of five flocks with RSS, 10 of them with severe villous atrophy. GpF RVs were confirmed in four chicks from three flocks with RSS and in two birds in the control flock. GpG RVs were verified in two chicks from two flocks with RSS, one with, and one without, intestinal lesions. At present, PCR methods are only available for detection of gpA RVs. Using RT-PCR, gpA RVs were identified in samples from 22 chicks including samples of two chicks from the control flock. Statistical analysis revealed a positive correlation between presence of gpD RV and severe villous atrophy in flocks with RSS. The results suggest that gpD RV plays a major role in the pathogenesis of RSS.
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Vol. 50 • No. 3