Medhanie GA1, McEwen SA, Weber L, Sanei B, Cooley L, Houghton S, Slavic D, Guerin MT.
Brachyspira species are frequent colonizers of the gastrointestinal tract in a variety of domestic animals, including birds. In chickens, Brachyspira species are associated with a clinical condition known as avian intestinal spirochetosis (AIS), a disease characterized by chronic diarrhoea, weight loss, low egg production, and faecal-stained eggs. The purpose of this study was to identify risk factors associated with the presence of Brachyspira species in Ontario layer chicken flocks. Pooled faecal samples were collected from 89 flocks from 58 farms between August 2010 and February 2011; 52 flocks were classified as dirty flocks (history of downgrades for dirty eggs) and 37 were classified as clean flocks (no history of downgrades for dirty eggs). A questionnaire related to management, biosecurity practices, and antimicrobial use was administered prior to sample collection. Using real-time polymerase chain reaction; 63.5% of the dirty flocks and 24.3% of the clean flocks were positive for Brachyspira species. A logistic regression model with a random effect for farm showed that the odds of Brachyspira species for flocks ≥ 60 weeks of age were higher than for flocks ≤ 34 weeks (OR=9.3; P=0.014). The odds of Brachyspira species in flocks housed in A-frame cages with manure curtains (OR=20.0; P=0.002) and flocks from multi-age farms (OR=8.5; P=0.001) were higher than for flocks in cage-stacked houses and from single-age farms, respectively. The odds of Brachyspira species for flocks housed in barns ≥ 30 years old was lower than for flocks housed in barns ≤ 14 years old (OR=0.1; P=0.002). The calculated intra-class correlation coefficient was 5.6 × 10(-14); the notably low proportion of variation among farms after the fixed effects were included in the model suggests that the farm-level variable (multi-age farm) included in the final model accounted for most of the farm-to-farm variation in Brachyspira presence. Therefore, it is recommended that strict biosecurity, and between-flock decontamination efforts to reduce the infection pressure, be followed on farms with multiple flocks of different ages to avoid transmission of the bacteria between flocks.