Necrotic enteritis (NE) is a leading intestinal health problem in broiler flocks and presents itself two different ways:
The subclinical form seldom causes death but quietly erodes performance. Subclinical NE is thought to be far more common than clinical NE, costing an estimated 5 cents per affected bird, yet it often goes unrecognized because the signs are subtle.
Necrotic enteritis is caused by the bacterium Clostridium perfringens, a soil-born organism found on virtually every poultry farm. When it grows unchecked in the gut, it releases toxins that damage the intestinal lining. Several factors, such as coccidiosis and stress, appear to predispose birds to the development of NE.
In the past, NE was partially controlled with the use of ionophore anticoccidials which have antibacterial activity, and with antibiotic-growth promoters (AGPs). Today, more producers are either eliminating or cutting back on the use of these drugs because of growing consumer demand for poultry raised without antibiotics. Concern about antibiotic resistance, which has made the drugs less effective, has also prompted the industry to seek other alternatives for managing NE.
Finding alternatives to antibiotic control of NE has become more important than ever. In fact, a report in Feedstuffs (PDF) noted that “Understanding, controlling and/or managing necrotic enteritis are the keys to growing chickens without antibiotics.”
The new Clostridium perfringens type A toxoid, developed by Merck Animal Health represents an exciting breakthrough for producers looking to control this costly disease without resorting to antibiotics.