The conditions under which infection with Histomonas meleagridis could spread from directly inoculated turkey poults to uninoculated poults without the aid of invertebrate hosts or vectors was investigated in several experiments. In three experiments in battery cages, uninoculated poults were commingled with directly infected birds on pine-shaving litter. Directly exposed birds were inoculated per cloaca with H. meleagridis by means of a plastic pipette tip attached to a 10-ml syringe or orally gavaged with fresh cecal droppings from donor turkeys 4 days postinoculation (PI). Of the cloacally inoculated controls in these experiments, 31 of 44 (70.5%) birds had severe lesions of histomoniasis at 14 days PI, whereas none of the orally gavaged birds became infected. Histomoniasis developed in 11 of 36 (30.5%) birds allowed to commingle with inoculated birds. In other treatments, poults were allowed only contact with droppings from directly inoculated birds after the infected birds were removed from the cages. This was done for a single period of 1 hr or repeated five times. Four of 32 birds (12.5%) became infected in this way after the single exposure, whereas only four of 44 birds (9.1%) exposed five times developed lesions. In a comparison of floor materials, 35 of 35 control birds inoculated per cloaca developed severe liver and cecal lesions, irrespective of litter. Uninoculated birds allowed to commingle with infected birds on paper or pine shavings became severely infected in all cases (12/12 and 12/12 birds, respectively), whereas only 33% of those on wire-floored cages became infected (4/12). These results suggest that transmission of infection is more likely to occur as a result of direct contact between birds than from contact with litter or fecal material.
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Vol. 55 • No. 1