Researchers Look for New Ways to Fight Blackhead in Turkeys

US - Blackhead is a serious condition with high morbidity and mortality in turkeys.
calendar icon 18 February 2016
clock icon 2 minute read

It is caused by a parasite called Histomonas melagridis.

A research project, funded by USPOULTRY and the USPOULTRY Foundation, has recently been completed that looked at alternative control methods for this condition.

Since effective medications for prevention and treatment of Blackhead are not any longer available in the US, practical alternatives are needed.

Dr Robert Beckstead, and colleagues from the Department of Poultry Science at the University of Georgia in Athens, looked at the use of several chemicals and compounds.

The researchers found that several heavy metals, including zinc and copper, were effective in laboratory experiments at preventing the growth of the parasite, but when used in turkeys in a simulated field challenge were ineffective.

The researchers concluded: "Although this research failed to identify feed ingredients that would inhibit Blackhead, it does not indicate that future studies will not identify such products.

"In lieu of bringing back effective drugs, other avenues of research need to be investigated, such as identifying disease reservoirs and vectors, determining the mechanisms of disease transfer and identifying husbandry practices that may increase or reduce the susceptibility of a flock."

Since no practical treatment alternative is readily apparent, future research will focus on control of the transmission of the disease by focusing on control of its intermediate host, the cecal worm.

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