A cross sectional study on Dutch layer farms to investigate the prevalence and potential risk factors for different Chlamydia species

Heijne, Marloes; van der Goot, Jeanet A.; Fijten, Helmi; van der Giessen, Joke W.; Kuijt, Eric; Maassen, Catharina B.M.; van Roon, Annika; Wit, Ben; Koets, Ad P.; Roest, Hendrik I.J.


In poultry several Chlamydia species have been detected, but Chlamydia psittaci and Chlamydia gallinacea appear to be most prevalent and important. Chlamydia psittaci is a well-known zoonosis and is considered to be a pathogen of poultry. Chlamydia gallinacea has been described more recently. Its avian pathogenicity and zoonotic potential have to be further elucidated. Within the Netherlands no data were available on the presence of Chlamydia on poultry farms. As part of a surveillance programme for zoonotic pathogens in farm animals, we investigated pooled faecal samples from 151 randomly selected layer farms. On a voluntary base, 69 farmers, family members or farm workers from these 151 farms submitted a throat swab. All samples were tested with a generic 23S Chlamydiaceae PCR followed by a species specific PCR for C. avium, C. gallinacea and C. psittaci. C. avium and psittaci DNA was not detected at any of the farms. At 71 farms the positive result could be confirmed as C. gallinacea. Variables significantly associated with the presence of C. gallinacea in a final multivariable model were ‘age of hens,’ ‘use of bedding material’ and ‘the presence of horses.’ The presence of C. gallinacea was associated with neither clinical signs, varying from respiratory symptoms, nasal and ocular discharges to diarrhoea, nor with a higher mortality rate the day before the visit. All throat swabs from farmers, family members or farm workers tested negative for Chlamydia DNA, giving no further indication for possible bird-to-human (or human-to-bird) transmission.