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Ornithobacteriosis

ORT Infection

Ornithobacteriosis, also known as Ornithobacterium rhinotracheale (ORT) infection, is an acute, highly contagious bacterial disease of chickens. ORT is a rod-shaped, gram-negative, bacterium with several serotypes that is found in domestic and wild birds worldwide. ORT infection causes respiratory infections, such as airsacculitis and pneumonia in affected birds. ORT can be a primary or secondary etiological agent, depending on the strain virulence, environmental factors, and immune status of the host, and the presence of other infectious agents. Outbreaks have been documented all over the world, including the USA, Asia, Europe, South America, Africa,, and the Middle East.

Clinical signs
Clinical signs vary widely between individual birds and flocks, in addition to the severity and length of disease course of the infection. Concurrent infections with other pathogens also impact the range of clinical signs observed in flocks. For example, when chickens are infected with Mycoplasma gallisepticum, concurrent infection with ORT often will increase the severity of clinical signs. In one study, chickens that were infected with both organisms developed keratoconjunctivitis and marked edema in their facial region, concentrating around their eyelids. Large masses of caseous exudate were found in their air sacs.

Transmission
ORT is transmitted by horizontal and vertical routes. Chickens can become infected through direct and indirect contact through fomites, feed and water, or aerosols.

Incubation period
The incubation period from infection to when clinical signs develop varies between 1 to 4 days.

Recent Outbreaks
In central California, in the United States, between 2000 and 2012, ORT was isolated from 294 chickens and turkeys. In 82% of the chicken flocks, chickens were infected with ORT in addition to one or more respiratory pathogens. The most common gross lesions demonstrated in the infected chickens in the study were:
  • Increased mucus in trachea
  • Caseous or fibrinous exudate in the air sacs
  • Consolidated lungs indicating pneumonia
  • Congested and edematous lungs
  • Flattened trachea
ORT infection occurs frequently in broilers and laying hens in China, resulting in 70% morbidity and 30% mortality in broilers.

Clinical Signs

Nasal discharge
Sneezing
Swollen sinuses
Coughing
Labored breathing
Misshaped or smaller eggs
Decreased egg production
Poor eggshell quality
Loss of appetite
Lethargy
Sudden death
Joint swelling
Lameness
Paralysis
Muscle weakness

Diagnosis

  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • ELISA
  • AGP test
  • qPCR assay

Treatment

NameSummary
Supportive careIsolate the bird from the flock and place in a safe, comfortable, warm location (your own chicken "intensive care unit") with easy access to water and food. Limit stress. Call your veterinarian.
AntibioticsTreatment can be difficult due to the susceptibility of O. rhinotracheale strains to acquire resistance to many frequently used antibiotics.
Probiotics and antioxidants

Prevention

  • Vaccination: An inactivated vaccine is available
  • Provide good ventilation
  • Practice good sanitary management
  • Provide clean, dry litter routinely
  • Strict biosecurity

Scientific References

Risk Factors

  • Overcrowding
  • Poor sanitation