Serum samples from 1120 layers from 56 flocks and 400 pullets from 20 flocks were tested by an indirect sandwich ELISA to investigate the prevalence of antibodies to Histomonas meleagridis in chickens kept in alternative husbandry systems. The overall prevalence of antibodies to H meleagridis in layers was 37.3 per cent, and positive birds were identified in 50 flocks. This was significantly higher than in pullets, where only 8.3 per cent of the birds tested positive. Optical density (OD) values obtained from pullet sera were much lower than the OD values from layers; however, positive birds were detected in half of the pullet flocks. In particular, all birds from an organic pullet flock were found to be positive, with high OD values. Overall, the highest prevalence of positive sera was obtained from birds kept in free-range flocks. Attempts to reisolate live histomonads from birds in 18 layer flocks were unsuccessful.
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Provenance not commissioned; externally peer reviewed