Asymptomatic carriage of Campylobacter jejuni is highly prevalent in chicken flocks. Thus, we investigated whether chronic Campylobacter carriage affects chicken intestinal functions despite the absence of clinical symptoms. An experiment was carried out in which commercial chickens were orally infected with C. jejuni (1 × 10(8) CFU/bird) at 14 days of life. Changes in ion transport and barrier function were assessed by short-circuit current (I(sc)) and transepithelial ion conductance (G(t)) in Ussing chambers. G(t) increased in cecum and colon of Campylobacter-infected chicken 7 d post-infection (DPI), whereas G t initially decreased in the jejunum at 7 DPI and increased thereafter at 14 DPI. The net charge transfer across the epithelium was reduced or tended to be reduced in all segments, as evidenced by a decreased I sc. Furthermore, the infection induced intestinal histomorphological changes, most prominently including a decrease in villus height, crypt depth and villus surface area in the jejunum at 7 DPI. Furthermore, body mass gain was decreased by Campylobacter carriage. This study demonstrates, for the first time, changes in the intestinal barrier function in Campylobacter-infected chickens and these changes were associated with a decrease in growth performance in otherwise healthy-appearing birds.
Animals Asymptomatic Diseases Body Weight Campylobacter Infections/physiopathology* Campylobacter jejuni/physiology* Carrier State Cecum/microbiology Cecum/physiology* Chickens* Colon/microbiology Colon/physiology* Intestinal Mucosa/microbiology Intestinal Mucosa/pathology Intestinal Mucosa/physiology* Ion Transport/physiology Jejunum/microbiology Jejunum/physiology*