During recent years botulism in poultry has inflicted severe costs on farmers and suffering on chickens in Norway and Sweden. The main objectives of this project are improved technology and increased knowledge of poultry botulism, and thus improved possib ilities of controlling the disease. Poultry botulism is mainly caused by neurotoxins produced by a group of bacteria which is distinct from those causing botulism in humans. This group is designated Clostridium botulinum Group III, comprising neurotoxin t ypes C, D and mosaic forms of C and D (C/D). Toxin types C and C/D are the most important causes of botulism in poultry.
Investigating the infection epidemiology of poultry botulism is one main part of the project. We know that enteric infection with bo tulinum bacteria is an important step in the development of botulism in poultry flocks. But little is known about sources of infection and how often such an infection is present in healthy flocks. We therefore want to study the prevalence of botulinum bac teria in the intestine of healthy Norwegian broiler flocks. Further, we want to evaluate which are the most likely sources of infection with botulinum bacteria in these flocks. This is done through examination of various sample types collected from infect ed and non-infected flocks.
Improvement of tools needed for more animal-friendly and rapid diagnosis and also for research is a vital and integral part of the project. An in vitro toxin assay that can replace the current mouse bioassay for toxin types C and C/D, as well as methods improving our ability to detect and isolate botulinum bacteria in potential infection sources will be developed. These methods imply improved possibilities of studying and understanding the epidemiology at herd, bird and microb e level. Publication of improved methods and procedures is likely to promote more research within the field of poultry botulism.