Understanding and controlling Necrotic Enteritis in broiler chickens (Dr. J. Prescott laboratory)

sm_prescott-brdrAvian necrotic enteritis (NE) caused by Clostridium perfringens is a major global problem in broiler chicken production. Losses through subclinical disease, through clinical disease and mortality, and through the cost of prevention by long-term use of antibiotics have been estimated to cost the global chicken industry 2-6 billion dollars. The shift to antibiotic-, including coccidiostat-, free broiler production has led to an urgent need to find novel ways to control NE. Dr John Prescott, a University of Guelph Emeritus Professor, is working with colleagues at Guelph to understand the molecular biology of C. perfringens and to use this information to develop a vaccine to prevent disease. The approach is to develop a live but non-virulent C. perfringens vaccine that can be administered in the feed, water or litter to young chicks. The approach involves identification and analysis of genes expressed by the bacterium inside the intestine of chickens and subsequent mutation (“knock-out”) of these genes so that the bacterium becomes unable to cause disease but can still produce immunity to disease. The research requires that, under very carefully controlled humane conditions, we can reproduce NE and evaluate the vaccine candidates both for inability to cause disease as well as potential to produce immunity. These studies also contribute to understanding of the basis of immunity as well as of how this highly-adapted chicken pathogen actually causes disease.

For more info, please read;

  1. Shojadoost, B., Vince, A. R., Prescott, J. F. 2012. The successful experimental induction of necrotic enteritis in chickens: A critical review. Vet. Res. 43:74.
  2. Lepp, D., Gong. J., Boerlin, P., Parreira, V. R., Songer, J. G., Prescott, J. F. 2013. Identification of accessory genome regions in poultry Clostridium perfringens isolates carrying the NetB plasmid. J Bact. 195:1152-1166.



Posted in Research Stories, Research-Prescott.