Alternative to Antibiotic Created to Combat a Major Poultry Disease

Thanks to Autumn Canaday of the Agricultural Research Service for this article.

Researchers at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and US Biologic, Inc., have developed an oral solution to an antibiotic alternative that fights against poultry coccidiosis, a disease that costs the poultry industry $3.5B in annual losses worldwide.

Coccidiosis is a parasitic disease that develops in an animal’s intestinal tract and can spread between animals via the ingestion of infected feces or tissue.

According to a study published in the June issue of Frontiers in Veterinary Science, infected chickens  fed a probiotic that included cNK-2 did not experience the same weight loss as non-treated birds. The treated chickens also experienced improved gut health, less infectious bacteria in their feces, and a great reduction in the spread of disease.

Coccidia are microscopic, spore-forming, single-celled parasites. They are transmitted via the droppings from infected birds. Photo by  Joel Mills – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via wikimedia commons.

“This oral method will help greatly reduce the clinical impact of coccidiosis, lessen spread of the disease, and improve gut health in poultry,” said USDA-ARS Research Molecular Biologist Hyun Lillehoj. “This means that birds fed with cNK-2 will have an overall healthier gut and less disease.”

The newly developed oral product is delivered in a probiotic powder that can be mixed into current feed processes and then fed to the birds across their lifetime, without requiring additional steps or new ingredients.

“Poultry solutions must be practical and economical,” said US Biologic CSO, Dr. Jolieke G. van Oosterwijk said. “Oral delivery of the cNK-2 accomplishes both goals and can lead to increased global protein sustainability and food equity.”

The USDA-ARS and US Biologic have patented the technology, and US Biologic has signed an exclusive global commercialization agreement with the goal of developing and licensing the technology for industry use. A USDA spokesperson said cNK-2 is currently being reviewed by the FDA and the USDA so it’s not yet clear when it will be available commercially. Stay tuned!

This project was funded in part by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture under the Small Business Innovation Research Program, and in part by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $17 of economic impact.

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