Colibacillosis is a common, infectious bacterial disease of chickens worldwide, caused by infection with Escherichia coli
. E. coli
is a normal inhabitant in the digestive system of poultry. However it can become an opportunistic bacteria and cause disease in it's host when their immune system is compromised or stressed, in which it is often referred to as avian pathogenic Escherichia coli
causes a variety of disease manifestations in chickens including: airsacculitis, cellulitis, coligranuloma, egg peritonitis, enteritis, omphalitis, osteomyelitis, pericarditis, perohepatitis, salpingitis, septicemia, and synovitis. E. coli
infections often occur concurrently with other bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses.
The most common co-infections documented to occur with E. coli
- Chronic respiratory disease (CRD): Chronic respiratory disease (CRD), also known collectively as mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG) infection, is considered to be one of the major pathogens that cause respiratory disease in poultry. It tends to develop slowly in flocks and associated with progressive and chronic respiratory signs. Chickens with chronic respiratory disease often show clinical signs associated with the respiratory system, which include mild tracheitis, sinusitis, airsacculitis and conjunctivitis.
- Swollen head syndrome (SHS): Swollen head syndrome (SHS) is an acute, highly contagious upper respiratory tract infection of poultry. SHS is caused by infection with the avian metapneumovirus (AMPV), a type of pneumovirus which is classified into four subtypes (A, B, C, and D).
The most common manifestations of E. coli
infections in chickens include:
- Cellulitis: Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection resulting in inflammation of the subcutaneous tissue of birds, typically seen in the lower abdomen and upper legs.
- Colisepticemia: Septicemia, also known as blood poisoning, occurs when an Escherichia coli infection has invaded the chicken's bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, the infection quickly spreads throughout the body. It is a serious, life-threatening condition which is associated with acute onset of very generalized clinical signs of sickness, such as listlessness, depression, weakness, loss of appetite, and sudden death.
- Omphalitis: Omphalitis, also known as yolk sac infection, is an infectious, non-contagious, common condition affecting the naval of newly hatched chicks. It is caused by invasion by several bacterial, with one of the most common being Escherichia coli.
- Egg peritonitis: Egg peritonitis is considered to be an emergency condition for hens. It is the inflammation of the hen's peritoneum, which is the thin tissue lining the inner wall of the abdomen. It is usually the secondary result of hens silently suffering from salpingitis. Affected hens may have a history of egg binding, usually within the past six months.
- Coligranuloma: A rare form of colibacillosis that occurs sporadically as a chronic infection in adult birds worldwide, resulting in decreased egg production, fertility, and hatchability.
Clinical signs of colibacillosis are usually nonspecific and vary depending on the manifestation of the infection. The severity varies depending on the age of the bird, duration of infection, management conditions, and concurrent diseases present. E. coli
strains are often resistant to many commonly sold antibiotics for chickens, including cephradine, tetracyclines, chloramphenicol, amino-glycosides, beta-lactam antibiotics, and sulfonamides.
is transmitted to chickens through ingestion, inhalation, or secondary to fecal contamination of eggs hatched in an incubator. It most frequently occurs during cold winter months when chickens are spending a great deal of time indoors.