Two commercial layer chicken flocks that were fed a flax-based diet beginning at 28 weeks of age for the production of omega-3 fatty-acid-enriched eggs experienced increased mortality when the birds reached 37 weeks. The average weekly mortality was 0.34% over a 20-week period, with peak mortality of 0.9% for 1 week. Reduced feed consumption, reduced body weight gain and poor peak production were noticed prior to the onset of increased mortality. A total of 245 birds were necropsied and 78% of these had lesions in the liver and spleen, with 44% of those necropsied having changes consistent with hepatitis-splenomegaly syndrome, with lesions ranging from acute periportal lymphoplasmacytic hepatitis to chronic severe cholangiohepatitis with haemorrhage, vasculitis and amyloidosis. A total of 11% of the birds had lesions typical of fatty liver haemorrhagic syndrome, and 22% had lesions found in both hepatitis-splenomegaly syndrome and fatty liver haemorrhagic syndrome. No significant bacteria or viruses were recovered from samples of the liver/bile or spleen but 11 of 21 bile samples contained avian hepatitis E virus RNA detectable with a reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction assay. Comparative sequence analysis found identities of 82 to 92% and 78 to 80% between the helicase and capsid protein genes, respectively, of the virus detected in this outbreak and those of other avian hepatitis E virus isolates, suggesting extensive genetic heterogeneity in avian hepatitis E viruses in Ontario flocks.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Animals
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)