A vaccine against necrotic enteritis is being developed at the University of Exeter in the UK. Research has shown that the bacterium produces a toxin called NetB and that much of the disease is caused by the effects of this toxin.
Researchers at the university, in collaboration with Ghent University in Belgium and Birkbeck University of London, have unraveled the molecular structure of the NetB toxin. Exchanging crucial amino acids in the toxin has enabled the researchers to identify a non-toxic form of NetB. Immunization with non-toxic NetB results in protection against necrotic enteritis.
Sergio Fernandes da Costa, from the University of Exeter, commented: "This is a tremendous step towards developing a necrotic enteritis vaccine that will control this disease in the future. We are working closely with the animal health industry to develop a product that can be efficiently given to entire poultry flocks in feed or water."
Necrotic enteritis is thought to cost the poultry industry an estimated £600 million worldwide each year. There has been a dramatic increase in the disease in various parts of the world following reduction in the use of antibiotic growth promoters in feed.