The history of pullorum disease is closely intertwined with the history of avian health research and that of the poultry industry. The seriousness of the disease galvanized the attention and brought together for the first time, the pioneers of poultry health research to work cooperatively on different aspects of the disease. Control of the disease made it possible for intensive poultry production to develop as the basis for the modern poultry industry. During the early 1900’s bacillary white diarrhea (BWD) was a devastating disease of young chickens threatening the developing poultry industry. Dr. Leo F. Rettger isolated and described the bacterial pathogen, Salmonella enterica serotype Pullorum for the first time in 1900. BWD was renamed pullorum disease in 1929. In subsequent years, Rettger and co-workers were able to reproduce the disease and fulfill Koch’s postulates. Rettger et al also showed that S. Pullorum was vertically transmitted, which was the first time that a pathogen was shown to be vertically transmitted. The development of serological tests was of crucial importance because it led to the development of effective eradication methods to identify carrier birds and to exclude these birds from the breeder flocks. The negative impact of pullorum disease on the poultry industry ultimately was one of the major reasons that the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) was developed by scientists, poultry industry and the USDA. Needless to say, the work of the pioneering researchers formed the basis for the control of the disease. The NPIP started in 1935 with 34 states participating in testing 4 million birds representing 58.2% of the birds hatched. The program rapidly expanded to 47 states by 1948 testing more than 30 million birds. In 1967 all commercial chicken hatcheries participating in the NPIP were 100% free of pullorum and typhoid disease caused by S. enterica serotype Gallinarum. This historical overview of pullorum disease describes in some detail the progress made especially during the early years toward controlling this disease using methodologies which were often very basic but nonetheless effective. One has to admire the ingenuity and persistence of the early researchers leading to their achievements considering the research tools that were available at the time.

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