Poultry diseases like coccidiosis cause losses of more than 600-million dollars in the U.S. each year. The number climbs to 3.2-billion when looking worldwide. USDA scientists are looking for alternatives to antibiotics for controlling infectious poultry diseases. One method used is the identification of antimicrobial proteins in chickens that kill pathogens. A molecular biologist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service has researched enhancing innate immunity through genetics and examining molecules produced by birds in response to enteric or intestinal pathogens.
According to the research – some molecules are host antimicrobial proteins that can kill pathogens, improve immune responses and promote the growth of beneficial gut bacterial populations in poultry. The researchers have demonstrated that NK lysin kills chicken coccidia. It’s also been shown that this antimicrobial protein is effective against other parasites like Neospora and Cryptosporidia. Now this ARS scientist is using a similar molecular technology to study enteric bacterial infections caused by Clostridium and develop alternatives to treat necrotic enteritis in poultry.