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, which costs the poultry industry $3.5 billion 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.
The study — published in the June issue of Frontiers in Veterinary Science — showed that infected chickens that were fed the oral solution 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. These changes were not seen in birds fed with probiotics only, showing changes only occurred in the presence of cNK-2.
“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 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.
The 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.