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Atherosclerosis is a slow-developing, chronic inflammatory cardiovascular disease syndrome affecting mainly older chickens. It is characterized by the hardening of the arteries, in which plaque material (a combination of fatty substances, cholesterol, calcium, fibrin, and cellular waste products) builds up on artery walls, resulting in the formation of hardened plaques. Over time, this accumulation of plaques cause the arteries to narrow. Without adequate space for blood to flow through the arteries, the connected organs and tissues may not receive enough blood to function properly. Eventually, pieces of the fatty deposits may break off and enter the bird's bloodstream.
Why it Occurs
Atherosclerosis occurs in response to multiple forms of endothelial injuries, most frequently caused by infection with the Marek's disease virus (MDV). Clinical signs of atherosclerosis varies depending on the location of the affected arteries within the body; these can consist of the heart, brain, legs, and/or kidneys. Many times, affected chickens may die acutely or never show any clinical signs of disease.
Atherosclerosis lesions consist of accumulations of fats, cholesterol, cellular debris, and inflammatory cells within the vascular media and intima.
Gylling, H., et al. European Atherosclerosis Society Consensus Panel on Phytosterols. Plant sterols and plant stanols in the management of dyslipidaemia and prevention of cardiovascular disease.. Atherosclerosis (2014)