Coccidiosis is an important health problem in poultry, caused by infections with a highly contagious intestinal parasite of the genus Eimeria. Eimeria infections in broiler chickens cannot be prevented, despite strict hygiene measures. Infection leads to disease in broiler chickens and thus impaired animal welfare. In addition, infection causes impaired growth and thus production losses, resulting in economic losses and increased environmental impact of the broiler sector.
Eimeria infections may also result in secondary infections causing high mortality rates, treatment with antibiotics and food infections among consumers. Coccidiosis and the resulting secondary infections result in huge economic losses of millions of euros on a worldwide basis.
Present control strategies
To prevent the negative consequences of coccidiosis and secondary infections, and thus to prevent impaired animal welfare and production losses, coccidiostats are added to the feed. However, these control the negative consequences of infection only to a limited extent. Treatment can therefore be alternated by using vaccination. However, vaccination is expensive and is only preferred over coccidiostats if it results in an early, uniform infection by the vaccine strain and a timely build-up of immunity in the flock, which is often not the case. Vaccination may therefore still result in secondary infections. Medication to prevent coccidiosis and secondary infections is not only expensive but also not preferred from a human health point of view and societal acceptation of broiler production. Because Eimeria infection can currently not be prevented, it is important to control infection to prevent impaired animal welfare and production losses.
Aim of the project: to control coccidiosis
The aim of the current project is to control coccidiosis in broiler chickens by promoting resilience to infection, and thus to prevent application of medication (also for secondary infections) in the future. We will follow an integrated approach in which we will stimulate early protection against infection as well as support gut health during infection and recovery. This integrated approach is new, because it is not aimed at elimination or suppression of the parasite, which has thus far only limited success, but is aimed to support the broiler chicken during infection with Eimeria.
Improved broiler health, welfare and performance
The project will result in proven feed and management strategies that support the farmer in the control of coccidiosis, leading to reduction in medication use, and improved broiler welfare and technical performance.