Horizontal transmission of Salmonella Enteritidis in experimentally infected laying hens housed in conventional or enriched cages

May 16 2018

The majority of human illnesses caused by Salmonella Enteritidis are attributed to contaminated eggs, and the prevalence of this pathogen in commercial laying flocks has been identified as a leading epidemiologic risk factor. Flock housing and management systems can affect opportunities for the introduction, transmission, and persistence of foodborne pathogens in poultry. The animal welfare implications of different types of housing for laying hens have been widely discussed in recent years, but the food safety consequences of these production systems remain incompletely understood.

The present study assessed the effects of 2 different housing systems (conventional cages and colony cages enriched with perching and nesting areas) on the horizontal transmission of experimentally introduced Salmonella Enteritidis infection within groups of laying hens. In each of 2 trials, 136 hens were distributed among cages of both housing systems and approximately one-third of the hens in each cage were orally inoculated with doses of 108 cfu of Salmonella Enteritidis (phage type 13a in one trial and phage type 4 in the other). At regular intervals through 23 d postinoculation, cloacal swabs were collected from all hens (inoculated and uninoculated) and cultured for Salmonella Enteritidis.

Horizontal contact transmission of infection was observed for both Salmonella Enteritidis strains, reaching peak prevalence values of 27.1% of uninoculated hens in conventional cages and 22.7% in enriched cages. However, no significant differences (P > 0.05) in the overall frequencies of horizontal Salmonella Enteritidis transmission were evident between the 2 types of housing. These results suggest that opportunities for Salmonella Enteritidis infection to spread horizontally throughout laying flocks may be similar in conventional and enriched cage-based production systems.


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