The incidence of necrotic enteritis (NE) due to Clostridium perfringens (CP) infection in commercial poultry has been increasing at an alarming rate. Although pre-exposure of chickens to coccidia infections is believed to be one of the major risk factors leading to NE, the underlying mechanisms of CP virulence remain undefined. The objectives of this study were to utilize an experimental model of NE produced by Eimeria maxima (EM) and CP coinfection to investigate the pathologic and immunologic parameters of the disease. Broilers coinfected with EM plus CP exhibited more severe gut pathology compared with animals given EM or CP alone. Additionally, EM/CP coinfection increased the numbers of intestinal CP bacteria compared with chickens exposed to an identical challenge of CP alone. Coinfection with EM and CP repressed nitric oxide synthase gene expression that was induced by EM alone, leading to lower plasma NO levels. Intestinal expression of a panel of cytokine and chemokine genes following EM/CP coinfection showed a mixed response depending on the transcript analyzed and the time following infection. In general, IFN-α, IFN-γ, IL-1β, IL-2, IL-12, IL-13, IL-17, and TGF-β4 were repressed, whereas IL-8, IL-10, IL-15, and LITAF were increased during coinfection compared with challenge by EM or CP alone. These results are discussed in the context of EM and CP to act synergistically to create a more severe disease phenotype leading to an altered cytokine/chemokine response than that produced by infection with the individual pathogens.
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Vol. 52 • No. 1