The present study describes a subclinical necrotizing granulomatous hepatitis in normal broilers routinely slaughtered in a medium-sized (72,000 birds per day) abattoir in the Netherlands. An exploratory investigation was scheduled on line during 20-min periods for 82 flocks (3000 birds examined per period). Liver and duodenum samples were collected for histopathology from 365 birds with liver pathology. Bacteriology was performed from 240 livers with lesions and 80 control livers. In addition to the hepatic pathology, other gross lesions of the carcasses, such as footpad dermatitis and broken legs/wings, were noted. The average prevalence for gross liver lesions was 0.16% (ranging from 0% to 0.63% per flock); 89.59% of the livers were enlarged, had a firm consistency, and revealed multifocal necrotic spots. Microscopically, 51.66% showed a granulomatous reaction in addition to the necrosis. There was no consistent anaerobic or aerobic bacterial growth in comparison to normal livers. A large proportion of the livers revealed growth of Escherichia coli, Bacteroides spp., Lactobacillus spp., Staphylococcus spp., and Streptococcus spp., and this was often with more than one type of bacterial colony. The duodenum mucosa grossly showed some redness with a mucous mass on its surface. Microscopically (N = 176) in 5.70% there were no changes in anatomy and cellular activities; 64.20% had a mildly increased number of lymphoid cells and heterophils in the lamina propria and between villus epithelial cells. The remaining 30.10% had moderate degenerative changes of villus epithelium with a mixed cellular infiltration in the lamina propria; 23.29% of the duodenum samples contained coccidia (infestation stage: mild to moderate). Signs of overgrowth with Clostridium spp. were not observed. There was a small, but significant correlation (rs = 0.30; P = 0.006) between prevalence of liver pathology and footpad dermatitis.
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Vol. 51 • No. 2