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Salmonella infection of chickens that leads to potential human foodborne salmonellosis continues to be a major concern. Chickens serve as carriers but, in contrast to humans, rarely show any clinical signs including diarrhea. The present investigations aimed to elucidate whether the absence of diarrhea during acute Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis (Salmonella Enteritidis) infection may be linked to specific changes in the electrophysiological properties of the chicken gut. Immediately after slaughter, intestinal pieces of the mid-jejunum and cecum of either commercial broiler or specific pathogen-free (SPF) chickens were mounted in Ussing chambers in 2 separate experimental series. Living Salmonella Enteritidis (3 × 10(9)) or Salmonella Enteritidis endotoxin (20 mg/L), or both, were added to the mucosal side for 1 h. In both experimental series, the Salmonella infection decreased the trans-epithelial ion conductance G(t) (P < 0.05). In the jejunum of SPF chickens, there was also a marked decrease in net charge transfer across the epithelium, evidenced by decreased short-circuit current (I(sc), P < 0.05). Interestingly, the mucosal application of Salmonella endotoxin to the epithelial preparations from jejunum and cecum of SPF chicken had an effect similar to living bacteria. However, the endotoxin had no additional effect on the intestinal function in the presence of bacteria. The decreasing effect of Salmonella and or its endotoxin on G(t) could be partly reversed by serosal addition of histamine. To our knowledge, this is the first study to address the functional response of native intestinal epithelium of chicken to an in vitro Salmonella infection. For the first time, it can be reported that intestinal ion permeability of chicken decreases acutely by the presence of Salmonella. This type of response could counteract ion and fluid secretion and may thus, at least in part, explain why chickens do not develop overt diarrhea after Salmonella infection.