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Effect of Coronavirus Infection on Reproductive Performance of Turkey Hens

Olusegun O. Awe, Ahmed Ali, Mohammad Elaish, Mahmoud Ibrahim, Maria Murgia, Mary Pantin-Jackwood, Yehia M. Saif, Chang-Won Lee
Avian diseases 2013 v.57 no.3 pp. 650-656
RNA, Turkey coronavirus, atrophy, duodenum, egg production, enteritis, hens, jejunum, microbial detection, mortality, pathogenesis, reproductive performance, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, turkey hens, viral diseases of animals and humans, virus replication
Turkey coronavirus (TCoV) infection causes enteritis in turkeys of varying ages with high mortality in young birds. In older birds, field evidence indicates the possible involvement of TCoV in egg-production drops in turkey hens. However, no experimental studies have been conducted to demonstrate TCoV pathogenesis in turkey hens and its effect on reproductive performance. In the present study, we assessed the possible effect of TCoV on the reproductive performance of experimentally infected turkey hens. In two separate trials, 29- to 30-wk-old turkey hens in peak egg production were either mock-infected or inoculated orally with TCoV (Indiana strain). Cloacal swabs and intestinal and reproductive tissues were collected and standard reverse-transcription PCR was conducted to detect TCoV RNA. In the cloacal swabs, TCoV was detected consistently at 3, 5, 7, and 12 days postinoculation (DPI) with higher rates of detection after 5 DPI (.90%). All intestinal samples were also positive for TCoV at 7 DPI, and microscopic lesions consisting of severe enteritis with villous atrophy were observed in the duodenum and jejunum of TCoV-infected hens. In one of the trials TCoV was detected from the oviduct of two birds at 7 DPI; however, no or mild microscopic lesions were present. In both experimental trials an average of 28%–29% drop in egg production was observed in TCoV-infected turkey hens between 4 and 7 DPI. In a separate trial we also confirmed that TCoV can efficiently transmit from infected to contact control hens. Our results show that TCoV infection can affect the reproductive performance in turkey hens, causing a transient drop in egg production. This drop in egg production most likely occurred as consequence of the severe enteritis produced by the TCoV. However, the potential replication of TCoV in the oviduct and its effect on pathogenesis should be considered and further investigated.