Changes in the caecal microflora of chickens following Clostridium perfringens challenge to induce necrotic enteritis
Necrotic enteritis is a disease of considerable economic importance to the global poultry industry. Clostridium perfringens has long been recognised as the etiological agent of the disease. However, disease initiation and progression is complex and appears to be precipitated by a range of predisposing factors. The present study investigated microbial interactions in the caecum of birds challenged with C. perfringens that developed necrotic enteritis. Bacterial populations of healthy and diseased birds, across two independent animal trials, were characterised by pyrosequencing of the V1–V3 region of 16S rRNA genes. Significant changes in the microbiota of infected birds were detected. Most of the affected bacterial species, including a number of butyrate producers, were reduced in abundance in infected birds compared to uninfected controls and a number of phylotypes, classified as Weissella species, were also more abundant in healthy birds. Conversely, some bacterial groups were more abundant in the C. perfringens-infected birds, for example, members of an unclassified order of Mollicutes showed a 3.7-fold increase in abundance in infected birds. Representative sequences from this novel order shared 99% identity with sequences previously detected in intestinal microbiota of chickens and humans, and have previously been shown to be represented in a number of samples originating from irritable bowel syndrome disease patients. We speculate that these newly identified perturbations in the composition of caecal microflora may play a role in the development and manifestation of necrotic enteritis.