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Vaccination very effective against coccidiosis

On February 18, Herman Peek from Utrecht University in the Netherlands defended his PhD work on resistance to anticoccidial drugs: alternative strategies to control coccidiosis in broilers.

Coccidiosis is a common disease among poultry, caused by a parasite that primarily affects the intestines. For poultry farmers, the disease can result in significant economic losses due to the higher feed conversion rate (kg of feed per kg of growth) as well as slower growth, increased fatality rates and the costs of prevention and treatment.

Worldwide, coccidiosis causes more than €2 bln in damages each year. Prevention of the spread of the disease among broilers is primarily based on hygiene measures and adding anti-coccidiosis drugs to feed or drinking water.

Increased demand for alternatives

In his doctoral research, Peek showed that the parasite is often resistant to these anti-coccidiosis drugs in Dutch, German and Spanish poultry farms. This factor, combined with new legislation, has increased the demand for alternative measures for preventing and limiting the spread of the coccidia parasites. Vaccination has proven to be a very effective strategy against coccidiosis. Peek’s research has also shown that there is a relationship between vaccination with parasites that are sensitive to anti-coccidiosis drugs and a reduction in the number of resistant parasites at the farm.

Research into 3 alternative products (ibuprofen, protease and a prebiotic) has shown that they all have a limited effectiveness as anti-coccidiosis drugs. These products therefore cannot be considered as effective alternatives for the current anti-coccidiosis treatments.

Less expensive vaccines

Continued studies into improved vaccines have shown that three different types of parasites (Eimeria acervulina, E. tenella and E. maxima) provide some degree of cross-protection against E. acervulina and E. tenella. This knowledge may eventually lead to the production of coccidiosis vaccines that are less expensive and more effective.

Natalie Berkhout

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