Egg contamination by Salmonella Enteritidis has remained a significant public health problem for nearly two decades, and Salmonella Heidelberg has also been recently implicated in egg-transmitted human illness. Colonization of the intestinal tract is a necessary precursor to the invasion of reproductive organs and subsequent deposition inside eggs laid by infected hens, but the relationship between the persistence of Salmonella in the intestinal tract and the likelihood of egg contamination has been uncertain. In this study, groups of laying hens were inoculated with large oral doses of strains of Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Heidelberg, including variants of the original parent strains that had been reisolated from eggs laid by infected hens in a prior study. The shedding of Salmonella in voided feces was monitored for 6 wk postinoculation, and all eggs laid by infected hens between 5 and 22 days postinoculation were cultured for Salmonella in their contents. The mean duration of fecal shedding was significantly longer for the previously passaged Salmonella strains (26.7 days) than for the original parent strains (17.5 days), and the passaged strains caused a significantly higher frequency of egg contamination (6.4%) than did the parent strains (3.3%). However, the duration of fecal shedding and the frequency of egg contamination were not correlated for any of the Salmonella Enteritidis or Salmonella Heidelberg strains.

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