Histomona meleagridis is a protozoan parasite that may cause outbreaks of histomonosis with high mortality, especially in turkey flocks. Chickens are less susceptible to the disease than are turkeys, but are considered to act as an important reservoir. To determine the seroprevalence of H. meleagridis in Dutch layer chicken flocks, a large scale seroepidemiologic study (3376 samples) was performed by sampling 12 organic flocks, 24 free-ranging flocks, 40 flocks with floor housing, and 40 flocks with cage housing. At the end of the laying period, approximately 30 blood samples per flock were collected for serology. The seroprevalence found was high. In every flock, at least one of the samples tested positive while in 87% of the flocks, at least one of the samples was strongly positive. There were no significant statistical differences in seropositivity between the housing types. To confirm the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) results, a small-scale seroepidemiologic study (576 samples) was performed in 29 additional layer chicken flocks kept in different housing systems. Subsequently, a subset of five seropositive flocks was selected. Five birds were obtained from each of these flocks in order to detect the parasite using culture and PCR. In all five flocks, H. meleagridis was either isolated from (culture), detected in (PCR), or both, the birds sampled. Together with the previously performed validation studies, the latter results confirm that the positive ELISA serology found is genuine. We conclude that the seroprevalence of H. meleagridis in layers is, as anticipated, high.
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Vol. 55 • No. 2