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Comparative Analysis of the Intestinal Bacterial and RNA Viral Communities from Sentinel Birds Placed on Selected Broiler Chicken Farms

Day, J. Michael, Oakley, Brian B., Seal, Bruce S., Zsak, Laszio
Plos One 2015 v.10 no.1
Astroviridae, Clostridium, Lactobacillus, Picobirnaviridae, Picornaviridae, RNA, Reoviridae, bacterial communities, broiler chickens, digestive system, farms, flocks, intestinal microorganisms, metagenomics, microbiome, specific pathogen-free animals, viruses
There is a great deal of interest in characterizing the complex microbial communities in the poultry gut, and in understanding the effects of these dynamic communities on poultry performance, disease status, animal welfare, and microbes with human health significance. Investigations characterizing the poultry enteric virome have identified novel poultry viruses, but the roles these viruses play in disease and performance problems have yet to be fully characterized. The complex bacterial community present in the poultry gut influences gut development, immune status, and animal health, each of which can be an indicator of overall performance. The present metagenomic investigation was undertaken to provide insight into the colonization of specific pathogen free chickens by enteric microorganisms under field conditions and to compare the pre-contact intestinal microbiome with the altered microbiome following contact with poultry raised in the field. Analysis of the intestinal virome from contact birds (“sentinels”) placed on farms revealed colonization by members of the Picornaviridae, Picobirnaviridae, Reoviridae, and Astroviridae that were not present in precontact birds or present in proportionally lower numbers. Analysis of the sentinel gut bacterial community revealed an altered community in the post-contact birds, notably by members of the Lachnospiracea/Clostridium and Lactobacillus families and genera. Members of the avian enteric Reoviridae and Astroviridae have been well-characterized and have historically been implicated in poultry enteric disease; members of the Picobirnaviridae and Picornaviridae have only relatively recently been described in the poultry and avian gut, and their roles in the recognized disease syndromes and in poultry performance in general have not been determined. This metagenomic analysis has provided insight into the colonization of the poultry gut by enteric microbes circulating in commercial broiler flocks, and has identified enteric viruses and virus communities that warrant further study in order to understand their role(s) in avian gut health and disease.