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Necrotic Enteritis: Applications for the Poultry Industry

27 October 2014

A review of the aetiology, epidemiology, predisposing factors, clinical signs, prevention and treatment of this economically important intestinal disease of poultry by researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Considering market demands concerning the decreased use of growth promoters and anticoccidial drugs in feed formulations, the poultry industry has been trying to reduce or eliminate the inclusion of subtherapeutic doses of antimicrobials into feed, according to Diego Paiva and Audrey McElroy.

In the current issue of Journal of Applied Poultry Research, the scientists from the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University explain that formulating diets not only to meet birds’ nutrient requirements for growth but also for gastrointestinal health parameters is increasingly important.

Maintenance and enhancement of intestinal integrity is essential for bird performance when antimicrobials are not included in feed, as commercial poultry face numerous enteric pathogen challenges.

Necrotic enteritis (NE) has reemerged as an important disease of poultry in recent years, Paiva and McElroy report. The reduction in the use of antimicrobials in poultry feeds has been attributed as one of the main contributing factors for the increasing incidence of NE in commercial poultry.

Mortality due to NE is extremely high – up to one per cent daily mortality – which results in great economic losses. And further economic losses due to NE are not only associated with high mortality, but also associated with decreases in bird performance and feed efficiency, particularly in subclinical cases of NE. Birds that survive NE outbreaks usually have a reduced ability to digest and absorb nutrients due to extensive damage to the mucosal lining, which ultimately results in reduced profitability.

In their conclusions, Paiva and McElroy state that NE is a complex disease and that it poses an increasing challenge to the poultry industry as regulations become stricter and demand grows for chicken produced with less antibiotics.

Advances in NE research have helped to identify predisposing factors and preventative methods, they added, but further studies are needed into the pathogenesis of NE and how alternative feed ingredients can help to prevent and treat NE without the use of antibiotics.


Paiva D. and A. McElroy. 2014. Necrotic enteritis: Applications for the poultry industry. J. Appl. Poult. Res. 23:557-566. doi: 10.3382/japr.2013-00925

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.
For more information on necrotic enteritis, click here.

October 2014

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