In mid-2000, a broiler chicken company in Alabama experienced high early mortality rates in chicks from two different hatcheries. Five isolates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, obtained from these contaminated hatcheries and resulting broiler chicks with omphalitis, were selected to determine virulence of the bacteria. One-day-old specific-pathogen-free white leghorn chicks were placed into positive pressure isolation units (10 chicks per unit); feed and water were provided ad libitum. The five isolates of P. aeruginosa (1 × 101 or 1 × 102 colony-forming units/bird) were used to challenge two replicates of 10 chicks via yolk sac inoculation. Two control groups were injected with 0.1 ml of phosphate-buffered saline, and two groups received no treatment. Mortality was recorded daily, and the chicks that died were necropsied and liver and yolk sacs were cultured. After 14 days, the remaining chickens were euthanatized and necropsied. Bacterial isolates retrieved from liver and yolk sacs were identified by the API 20 NE typing system to confirm that they were the same as the challenge isolate. Virulence varied greatly among the isolates, resulting in mortality rates from 0 to 90%. The challenge isolates produced different and often distinctive postmortem lesion patterns. Antibiotic sensitivity tests showed that all five isolates were resistant to sulfisoxazole, ceftiofur, penicillin, lincomycin, bacitracin, oxytetracycline, erythromycin, naladixic acid, and tetracycline. The isolates varied in sensitivity to other antibiotics, but all isolates were sensitive to gentamicin.
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Vol. 46 • No. 4