Investigation on eggshell apex abnormality (EAA) syndrome in France: isolation of Mycoplasma synoviae is frequently associated with Mycoplasma pullorum



Background: Mycoplasma synoviae (MS) is known to cause Eggshell Apex Abnormality (EAA) syndrome characterized by an altered shell surface with increased translucency on the apex. However, no large-scale studies have been conducted to obtain prevalence data of EAA and MS isolates associated to this syndrome. This manuscript reports the results of two field studies performed in the French poultry industry (2015-2017): focusing mainly on investigation of presence and prevalence of EAA in different types of laying hen flocks (phase 1), and isolation of MS strains from EAA-infected flocks (phase 2).

Results: The first survey included 77 farms of commercial layers in three French egg-production regions, hosting 40 flocks in alternative systems (ALT) and 56 in furnished cages (FC). Seven flocks (4 FC and 3 ALT) presented EAA clinical signs, giving a prevalence of 7.3% in this studied sample. A second independent field study was conducted to identify MS by in vitro cultivation and PCR in samples from 28 flocks with clinical signs of EAA. Different types of biological specimens were collected in EAA-affected flocks and submitted to the laboratory. M. synoviae was detected in 25/28 flocks, from both production systems (5/5 ALT and 20/23 FC). Detection of MS was significantly higher in tracheal swabs (59%) than in cloacal (10.5%), albumen (3.6%) and egg yolk (1.1%) swabs. It is worth to mention that attempts to clone MS from positive samples were often hampered by the presence of another Mycoplasma species, which showed fast growing behaviour in the selective media used in this study (Frey Medium 4 and Frey Medium 4 supplemented with erythromycin). The use of MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry in combination with next-generation sequencing (NGS) results allowed the identification of this fast growing mycoplasma as Mycoplasma pullorum, which was detected in 14 of the 25 (56%) MS-positive flocks.

Conclusions: These results confirmed the presence of the EAA syndrome in MS-positive flocks of layers in France, reared in different regions and in different production systems (ALT and FC). Studies need to be conducted to test whether M. pullorum may influence the expression of clinical signs of EAA in MS-infected layer farms.

Keywords: Eggshell apex abnormalities; Layers; MALDI-TOF; Mycoplasma pullorum; Mycoplasma synoviae.