Sub-clinical infection with Salmonella in chickens differentially affects behaviour and welfare in three inbred strains.
Toscano MJ., Sait L., Jørgensen F., Nicol CJ., Powers C., Smith AL., Bailey M., Humphrey TJ.
1. Much evidence exists detailing how animals respond to pathogen challenge, yet information explaining how the various behavioural, immunological, and physiological systems in chickens interplay during such challenges remains limited. 2. To gain an understanding of this interplay while controlling for genetic variation, the current study collected a variety of behavioural, physiological and immunological measures from three inbred lines (P, O and N) of laying hens before and after a sub-clinical infection with Salmonella enterica Typhimurium at 56 d of age. For comparison, an equal number of control birds were inoculated with a Salmonella-free broth. To identify an underlying profile, which might result in reduced susceptibility to infection, data were also collected in the pre-infection period. Post-infection blood and faeces were collected at 1-d post infection (dpi) and faeces again at 8 dpi. Animals were killed 15 d after infection and faeces, caecal contents, and spleen were examined for the presence of Salmonella. 3. Statistical analysis was performed to identify pre- and post-infection differences between genetic lines, changes in bird behavioural patterns between the two periods, and associations between a positive test for Salmonella and the various response measures. 4. Tissues from Line P birds were more often negative for Salmonella than those from birds of other lines, though this was inconsistent and tissue-dependent. The P line was also characterised by relatively greater serum concentrations of immunoglobulins at 1 dpi and α(1)-acid glycoprotein at 15 dpi. In addition, P line birds were more timid and their growth was reduced during the pre-infection period suggesting the possibility of a profile with reduced susceptibility to the bacterial challenge. 5. The current work has identified correlations between attributes of chicken strains and improved clearance. Future work using hypothesis-based testing will be required to determine whether the identified correlations are causally related.