Infections of poultry due to Streptococcus equi subsp. zooepidemicus have been rare during the past decades and dissimilarities have been reported as to symptoms and lesions; likewise, the source of serious outbreaks has remained speculative. An outbreak affecting 11,000 free-range chickens at the age of 47 wk is reported. The outbreak manifested itself as acute at the onset and was followed by a chronic stage, resulting in some 80% mortality within 21 wk. Small-colony variants (SCVs) of S. equi subsp. zooepidemicus associated with the chronic phase are reported for the first time, and it is discussed whether SCVs might explain the change in lesions observed. Comparison of partial sequences of rpoB, multilocus sequence typing, and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis of isolates from chickens and horses kept at the farm showed the isolates to be identical and horses a likely source of infection. The present findings underline the importance of protecting free-range chickens from contact with other animals and birds known to host pathogens of importance to poultry.
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Vol. 56 • No. 3