U.S – Researchers at the University of Arkansas, led by distinguished professor Billy Hargis, are delving into the genome of Streptococcus gallocyticus to enhance the diagnosis of infections in turkeys. 

The ultimate goal is to employ genome mapping to create a DNA fingerprint of S. gallocyticus, enabling turkey producers to identify the bacterial infection quickly using a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, reducing the diagnosis time from a week to a few hours.

The research focuses on unraveling the transmission dynamics and sources of S. gallocyticus

By gaining insights into the genome, the team aims to contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the bacterium’s behavior, transmission routes, and origins in order to facilitate targeted diagnostic approaches.

Impact of S. gallocyticus on turkeys

S. gallocyticus, a gram-negative bacterium, poses a threat to turkeys by causing vascular collapse with lesions in vital organs such as the heart, liver, and spleen. 

Notably, the bacterium has evolved, and recent isolates exhibit a higher affinity for the central nervous system, leading to neurological symptoms associated with encephalitis and meningitis.

Diagnosing S. gallocyticus infections in turkeys presents challenges as infected birds often display no symptoms. 

Post-mortem examinations are required to detect lesions, making it challenging for producers to identify and address infections promptly. 

Relapse infections are common in adult turkey flocks, occurring in 5-7% of cases.

Currently, there is no available vaccine for S. gallocyticus. Antibiotics can reduce mortality rates to approximately 3-7%, but in antibiotic-free turkey flocks, mortality can reach 25-30%. 

The absence of a vaccine underscores the importance of developing efficient diagnostic methods, such as the proposed genome mapping approach.

This research initiative at the University of Arkansas holds promise for the poultry industry, offering the potential for quicker and more accurate detection of Streptococcus gallocyticus infections in turkeys. 

The insights gained from genome mapping could significantly impact disease management and prevention strategies in turkey production.

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