Experimental infection models are useful tools for understanding how Salmonella enteritidis is deposited in eggs and for testing potential strategies to control eggborne transmission of disease to humans. Oral inoculation of laying hens is presumed to provide the closest simulation of naturally occurring infections, but alternatives such as intravenous or aerosol inoculation have sometimes been recommended as options to induce higher incidences of egg contamination. The present study compared the frequency, level, and location of S. enteritidis deposition in egg contents after experimental inoculation by three different routes. In two replicate trials, specific-pathogen-free laying hens were infected with an S. enteritidis culture mixture prepared to optimize invasive behavior. Groups of hens received either an oral dose of 109 S. enteritidis, an aerosol dose of 109 S. enteritidis, or an intravenous dose of 105–107 S. enteritidis. Oral inoculation led to the highest incidence of fecal shedding of S. enteritidis, whereas intravenous inoculation produced the highest specific antibody titers. Eggs laid during the first 21 days postinoculation were cultured to detect and enumerate S. enteritidis in the yolk and albumen. No significant differences were observed among the three inoculation routes in the frequencies of isolation of S. enteritidis from either yolk or albumen. For all three routes of administration, S. enteritidis was recovered more often from yolk (at frequencies ranging from 4% to 7%) than from albumen (0 to 2%). Over 73% of contaminated eggs harbored fewer than 1 colony-forming unit (CFU) of S. enteritidis per milliliter, and only 3% of such eggs contained more than 100 CFUs/ml. Significantly higher levels of S. enteritidis contaminants were associated with intravenous inoculation than with the other routes. No advantage of using aerosol or intravenous administration of S. enteritidis as an alternative to oral inoculation for inducing the production of contaminated eggs was evident in this study.

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