Necrotic Enteritis in Chickens

Description of the Disease Necrotic Enteritis (NE) is caused by the gram positive, anaerobic bacterium Clostridium perfringens (Cp). The signs are droopiness, lack of appetite, diarrhea, ruffled feathers and mortality in the flock, sometimes occurring quite suddenly. At post mortem examination the intestines are thin and transparent, filled with gas. Spots of necrosis are seen on the inner surface of the intestines, the mucosa peeling off. Later the spots coalesce and in severe cases the whole inner surface becomes bloody and necrotic. Often, the liver and biliary system are infected too. In subclinical cases the only manifestation of the disease is poor performance of the birds. Early diagnosis and quick response in treatment are needed to prevent great damage. NE occurs at young age, starting at two weeks and rarely after 30 days of age. The causative agent (Cp) Cp causes enteritis in many animal species and in man. Cp is most often found in healthy chickens starting at very young age. The type which is causing NE in chickens is from group A and it produces a toxin (alpha and at times beta toxins). Under unfavorable conditions, Cp forms spores, a very resistant form which enables it to survive in the environment for very long time under harsh conditions. Cp is sensitive to many antibiotics, especially of the penicillin family (amoxicillin, penicillin, ampicillin), tetracyclines, tylosin, and to a larger or lesser degree to antibiotic growth promoters (virginiamycin, bacitracin) and to ionophore coccidiostats. Avoparcin growth promoter was the most effective product in prevention of NE. Its removal from use has resulted in a much greater occurrence of NE. There are more than 800 known serotypes of Cp! This fact, their surviva l in the environment as spores and their universal presence and abundance explain the appearance of the disease in every location where chickens are raised intensively. But unexplained is the fact why it occurs unexpectedly, not in every flock, at times even in one house and not in neighboring houses. Diagnosis Typical post mortem lesions in advanced cases are easy to recognize. Early lesions may be mistakenly thought to be coccidiosis, dysbacteriosis or nonspecific enteritis. Viral enteritis, such as infectious stunting- malabsorption may also be confused with NE. Smears of intestinal contents stained with Giemsa or Gram stains will elicit the many bacilli in NE. histological sections of the intestine will demonstrate the necrotic mucosa. Bacterial cultures incubated under anaerobic conditions will also show the typical Cp colonies. Factors enhancing NE Since Cp bacteria are almost always found in the intestines of healthy chickens, there must be some factors which enhance their causing disease. Many papers were published on possible factors affecting the appearance of NE. The removal of Avoparcin and less effective antibiotic growth promoters (AGP) definitely resulted in a higher rate of diagnosis of NE in Europe and elsewhere. The feed contents is of the utmost importance. A high contents of white grains in the feed, such as wheat and barley, are poorly digested by chickens. They become highly

The . known also as Nutraceuticals are various products of natural. which are said to aid in the digestion of feed and encourage advantageous bacterial lora. by allowing bacteria which interfere with proper and complete digestion to take over. Very rich protein. Other products are based on natural flora of healthy adult chickens. often plant origin. The early occurrence of the disease at times almost precludes active immunization. has been successfully used for many years. Some of the products contain various Lactobacillus species. The immunity must be directed at the toxin(s) produced by Cp. are given in order to help establish favorable flora in the gut. This competitive exclusion of the unwanted microorganisms is believed to help in prevention of NE as well as Salmonella and other infections. or about other novel inventions which will attempt to overcome this costly disease. Flies caught on the farm were carrying large numbers of Cp. Factors helping to reduce NE AGP and some of the ionophoric coccidiostats are helpful in prevetion or alleviating NE. High corn (maize) concentration in the feed helps to have a more complete and easy digestion and absorption of the feed ingredients. short intervals between flocks and sudden changes in the diet will increase the chance of induction of NE. Animal fat and protein sources are also contributing to the appearance of NE. The vaccination of sheep against enterotoxemia. rye and other "white" grains are used extensively. Publications have indicated that wheat causes changes in the intestinal flora in a negative direction. So. barley. This fact indicates that the problem is relatively new. Probiotics. allowing the Clostridial bacteria to increase in numbers and result in their fermentation. or about non-virulent strains of Cp. Recently a deadly case in layers was described where a heavy fly infestation on the farm was implicated as the cause of the outbreak. which lower the pH in the intestine and thus keep pathogenic bacteria down in the lower tract – in the large intestines. any intestinal infection can worsen NE). Any and all gut infections are precursors of NE. Prebiotics. NE and Coccidiosis It has been known that coccidiosis can predispose NE and vice versa. and not only against the bacteria. it is obvious that there is an inherent problem with this condition which became more prevalent after the removal of AGP's from the feed. such as fish meal in high concentration beleived to be detrimental. crowding. caused by Cp.viscous and move slowly through the intestinal tract. (as said above. We shall probably hear in the future about recombinant toxin proteins as antigens. poor litter quality and management. that NE can exacerbate coccidiosis. Immunization There are few publications on attempted vaccination against NE. Maternal protection does not last long enough to prevent the disease at a later age. Improper ventilation. Highly contaminated feed and the poultry house environment with Cp are said to be dangerous. especially in countries where wheat. Digestive enzymes are important additives to feed. Stress will have a deleterious effect on broilers. microorganisms which are fed to or sprayed over chicks after hatch and in some cases during the entire growing period. The epidemiology of NE in broilers is different and therefore the approach must be modified accordingly.

will pay even a higher price… . Conclusions Many factors influence the transformation of the dormant bacteria Clostridium perfringens. This exposure to coccidia is said to cause minor changes in the epithelium and not to enhance to proliferation of Cp. Those who will not learn to live with the new demands. present in almost all chickens' normal gut flora. Future plans to ban the use of coccidiostats will make the situation further complicated. white grains such as wheat. into rapid proliferation and resulting in Necrotic Enteritis. rye. These are mostly related to the feed quality and makeup. What will be the future? There is no doubt that the removal of antibiotic growth promoters from animal feeds has resulted in a much higher rate of NE in broiler flocks. All in all. New natural feed additives will replace the synthetic and antibiotic ones.use of Maternal Immunization against coccidiosis (with CoxAbic® vaccine) or by direct vaccination of broiler chicks with live vaccines causes a mild and temporary appearance of coccidian in the intestines. These will be translated into slightly longer growth periods and slightly poorer feed conversion rates. as they are learning to handle welfare demands. Broilers will be raised under more hygienic conditions. The poultry industry will have to learn to cope with the new conditions. in a less stressful environment. in less crowded houses and with better adjusted feed formulations to cope with the new challenges. Feeds based on corn and soybean are less likely to cause NE. we shall have to pay a price for the regulatory and consumer demands. are difficult to digest by chickens are contributing to the occurrence of NE. barley. Stress and rapid changes in the diet and the environment of the poultry house are also conducive to it.