The progress and transmission of blackhead disease in chickens was studied in battery cages and floor pens in the absence of vectors. Two-week-old chicks were inoculated intracloacally with Histomonas meleagridis and allowed to commingle with others in floor pens. There was no confirmed transmission of blackhead to other birds in the pen, whether stocked at 10% or 25% with infected birds. A second experiment evaluated the effects of feed restriction of chickens on spread of blackhead within floor pens. Inoculated seeder birds had severe cecal lesions of blackhead at necropsy, regardless of feed restriction. Uninoculated birds did not develop lesions by the time of necropsy at 42 days of age, regardless of whether full-fed or limited by skip-day feeding. Chickens inoculated intracloacally with H. meleagridis and placed in battery cages became infected and had cecal lesions of blackhead, but few liver lesions. Chickens allowed to commingle with the inoculated birds in batteries had no lesions of histomoniasis at necropsy 2 wk postinoculation. Coccidial oocysts from turkeys (Eimeria adenoeides) were inoculated along with H. meleagridis from cultures to test the effects of sporozoite penetration in the ceca on progress of blackhead disease. Histomoniasis was not worsened by the interaction with sporozoites, as shown by unchanged severity of cecal lesions, the number of birds showing liver lesions, or the overall number of positive birds. Overall, blackhead infections showed no inclination to spread from bird to bird under conditions of these studies, in contrast to what has been reported for turkeys. These results suggest that the dynamics of blackhead transmission in chickens differs significantly from that of turkeys, where transmission from bird to bird is rapid and effective in the absence of vectors.
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Vol. 50 • No. 2