Disclosing respiratory co-infections: a broad-range panel assay for avian respiratory pathogens on a nanofluidic PCR platform

Respiratory syndromes (RS) are among the most significant pathological conditions in edible birds and are caused by complex coactions of pathogens and environmental factors. In poultry, low pathogenic avian influenza A viruses, metapneumoviruses, infectious bronchitis virus, infectious laryngotracheitis virus, Mycoplasma spp. Escherichia coli and/or Ornithobacterium rhinotracheale in turkeys are considered as key co-infectious agents of RS. Aspergillus sp., Pasteurella multocida, Avibacterium paragallinarum or Chlamydia psittaci may also be involved in respiratory outbreaks. An innovative quantitative PCR method, based on a nanofluidic technology, has the ability to screen up to 96 samples with 96 pathogen-specific PCR primers, at the same time, in one run of real-time quantitative PCR. This platform was used for the screening of avian respiratory pathogens: 15 respiratory agents, including viruses, bacteria and fungi potentially associated with respiratory infections of poultry, were targeted. Primers were designed and validated for SYBR green real-time quantitative PCR and subsequently validated on the Biomark high throughput PCR nanofluidic platform (Fluidigm©, San Francisco, CA, USA). As a clinical assessment, tracheal swabs were sampled from turkeys showing RS and submitted to this panel assay. Beside systematic detection of E. coli, avian metapneumovirus, Mycoplasma gallisepticum and Mycoplasma synoviae were frequently detected, with distinctive co-infection patterns between French and Moroccan flocks. This proof-of-concept study illustrates the potential of such panel assays for unveiling respiratory co-infection profiles in poultry.