SUMMARY.

The purpose of the present study was to determine whether a correlation existed between chick mortality and the presence of Clostridium perfringens alpha-toxin and NetB-toxin genes (cpa and netB) in C. perfringens recovered from litter in commercial broiler houses. Because coccidiosis predisposes chickens to necrotic enteritis, the concentration of Eimeria oocysts in these samples was measured, and the numbers were used in similar correlation analyses. Litter samples were collected at 0, 2, and 4 wk growout from six broiler farms (18 houses total) during an anticoccidial drug (ACD) control program and from nine broiler farms (23 houses total) during an Eimeria vaccine (VAC) control program. Of these, litter samples were collected from five farms during both ACD and VAC programs. The litter samples were processed for Eimeria oocyst and C. perfringens spore enumerations by standard parasitologic and microbiologic techniques. DNA was also extracted for C. perfringens DNA for PCR detection of genes coding for alpha- and NetB-toxin. A general trend during the ACD programs was a transient decrease in both Eimeria maxima and non–E. maxima (Eamipt) numbers at 2 wk growout. The pattern was slightly different during VAC with E. maxima and Eamipt levels increasing over time. Average concentrations of C. perfringens in litter were highest at 2 wk (∼105–106 spores/g) during ACD and at placement during VAC (∼105–106 spores/g). During the ACD program, a strong correlation was observed between 0 and 3-wk chick mortality and the presence at placement (0 wk) of netB (r = 0.42–0.48) or cpa (r = 0.55–0.67). A very strong correlation was observed in 0–5-wk chick mortality and the presence of netB at 4 wk growout (0.73–0.95). During a VAC program, a strong correlation was only observed between the presence of netB at placement and 0–1-wk chick mortality (r = 0.67).

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