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In poultry, colibacillosis manifests with an extraintestinal infection caused by avian pathogenic E. coli (APEC) that primarily or secondarily produces morbidity and mortality in broilers, turkeys and layers, among other birds. Dr Lisa Nolan considers an organism to be APEC when it contains more than 3 of the 9 virulence factors in its PCR panel.
The disease is a syndrome that includes omphalitis and cellulitis and respiratory tract infections with aerosaculitis, pericarditis, perihepatitis, splenomegaly and swollen heads (it occurs in 95% of cases in laying birds between 18 and 30 weeks of age). In laying birds, the reproductive system is also affected, producing salpingitis or salpingoperitonitis syndrome (SPS).
There are other E. coli strains that make up the microbiota in the intestines of healthy birds where they can perform a number of beneficial functions, including vitamin K biosynthesis (Wigley P. 2015), but they can carry a variety of virulence factors that; at any given moment, can develop to a disease. (Johnson et al., 2010)
In laying birds there are some predisposing factors during the final period of production (Beckman B., 2014):
In 2018, a study by the University of Copenhagen concluded that there was a trend towards a higher prevalence of E.coli associated with mortality in the first week in broilers from older breeders. It was also found that floor eggs should not be used, due to the risk of infection and the increased transmission in the incubator.
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