Developing an experimental necrotic enteritis model in turkeys - the impact of Clostridium perfringens, Eimeria meleagrimitis and host age on frequency of severe intestinal lesions

Simon P. Hardy, Sylvie L. Benestad, Inger Sofie Hamnes, Torfinn Moldal, Bruce David, John R. Barta, Jean-Michel Reperant, Magne Kaldhusdal

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Background: Necrotic enteritis is a significant problem to the poultry industry globally and, in Norway up to 30% of Norwegian turkey grow-outs can be affected. However, despite an awareness that differences exist between necrotic enteritis in chickens and turkeys, little information exists concerning the pathogenesis, immunity, microbiota or experimental reproduction of necrotic enteritis in turkeys. In particular, it is important to determine the appearance of the gross lesions, the age dependency of the disease and the role of netB toxin of Clostridium perfringens. To this end, we report our findings in developing an in vivo experimental model of necrotic enteritis in turkeys. Results: A four tier (0-3) scoring system with clearly defined degrees of severity of macroscopic intestinal lesions was developed, based on 2312 photographic images of opened intestines from 810 B.U.T. 10 or B.U.T. Premium turkeys examined in nine experiments. Loss of macroscopically recognizable villi in the anterior small intestine was established as the defining lesion qualifying for a score 3 (severe intestinal lesions). The developed scoring system was used to identify important factors in promoting high frequencies of turkeys with severe lesions: a combined Eimeria meleagrimitis and Clostridium perfringens challenge, challenge at five rather than 3 weeks of age, the use of an Eimeria meleagrimitis dose level of at least 5000 oocysts per bird and finally, examination of the intestines of 5-week-old turkeys at 125 to 145 h after Eimeria meleagrimitis inoculation. Numbers of oocysts excreted were not influenced by Clostridium perfringens inoculation or turkey age. Among three different lesion score outcomes tested, frequency of severe lesions proved superior in discriminating between impact of four combinations of Clostridium perfringens inoculation and turkey age at challenge. Conclusions: This study provides details for the successful establishment of an in vivo model of necrotic enteritis in turkeys.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number63
    JournalBMC Veterinary Research
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2020

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    • Age
    • Challenge model
    • Clostridium perfringens
    • Eimeria meleagrimitis
    • Macroscopic lesions
    • Necrotic enteritis
    • Refinement
    • Scoring system
    • Turkeys


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