Necrotic enteritis

Occurrence: Worldwide.
Species affected: Broilers, commercial layer pullets. Age affected: 3-6 weeks.
Causes: Bacterial toxins- Clostridium perfringens toxins Types A, C-alpha and C-beta. The organism is transmitted by soil, dust, litter and faeces. Can be induced by choice of raw materials in feed and /or coccidiosis.
Effects: Ataxia, intoxication, diarrhoea, depression, ruffled feathers, reluctance to move. It may also cause dysbacteriosis, leading to vitamin or mineral deficiency.

Special note: It may cause malabsorption syndrome leading to vitamin or mineral deficiency. Coccidia often cause intestinal lesions followed by Clostridium induced enteritis.



All types of chickens from two weeks onwards are susceptible to this acute to chronic disease.
The agent involved in the aetiology of the disease is Clostridium perfringens, which produces types A and C alpha toxin and type C beta toxin. It is also called creepers because chickens are sometimes ataxic (can’t move).

Mode of transmission

Soil, dust, litter and faeces spread the organism.

Clinical signs

Ataxia, intoxication, diarrhoea, depression, ruffled feathers and reluctance to move may be seen. In acute cases acute death can occur within hours of the disease onset.

Necrotic enteritis

Postmortem lesions

Dehydration (darkened skin), emaciation (no breast muscle), congested liver, cooked (ruffled up) intestinal mucosa - primarily of the jejunum and ileum can be seen. Intestines are often distended and filled with gas. There is water in the crop. In acute cases enteritis occurs with just a grey layer of necrotic material on the mucosa.


Diagnosis is based on the gross lesions (ruffled intestinal mucosa), clinical signs and bacterial isolation on blood agar plate. Colonies are surrounded by an inner zone of complete haemolysis and an outer zone of discoloration and incomplete haemolysis. It simulates coccidiosis and ulcerative enteritis.


Bacitracin 50 g/ton given continuously in the feed, improved litter sanitation (litter treatments and composting), lincomycin in feed or water. Rearing birds on wire will prevent the disease. Using probiotics, prebiotics, and anticoccidial feed additives.

Necrotic enteritis insights

Diagnosing dysbiosis in broilers

In October, 2015, IHSIG held the 3rd symposium ‘One World, One Health’ in Ghent, Belgium. Different scientists presented their vision on the latest developments in poultry health.

The true cost of necrotic enteritis

Necrotic enteritis has increased in occurrence and severity over the years. When it comes to the damage it causes, producers often adopt the figure of US$0.05 per chick derived from a US$2 billion loss on a worldwide scale estimated in 2000. Since then, parameters have changed, as have the true costs of NE, which could come close to US$6 billion in 2015.

Necrotic enteritis eating into our profit

It may come as no surprise to anyone in the poultry sector that necrotic enteritis (NE) is a costly disease. That said, chances are that it is still underestimated.

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