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Dietary lactose reduces lesions from necrotic enteritis in broilers

Including lactose in the diet of broilers might help control the clinical signs of necrotic enteritis, which has been on the rise in countries and commercial companies no longer using antibiotic growth promoters, say investigators.

In an experiment, day-old broilers were fed either a non-lactose control diet, a diet with 2.5% lactose or a diet with 4.5% lactose. On day 17, they received oral doses of Clostridium perfringens, the bacterium that causes necrotic enteritis, for 3 consecutive days, say J. L. McReynolds of the Southern Plains Agricultural Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, and associates.

Next the investigators evaluated intestinal lesions associated with necrotic enteritis. Lesion scores were significantly lower in birds that received 2.5% lactose compared to the other two groups, the investigators say.

"These experiments suggest that lactose could be used as a potential alternative to growth-promoting antibiotics to help control this costly disease," they say in a published article (Poultry Science, 86(8): 1656-1661 2007).

Previous studies by the same investigators have indicated that lactose might also reduce salmonella and C. perfringens in the ceca of poultry.

Spring 2008

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