Coccidiosis is a health challenge throughout the life of a bird and a major cause for performance and productivity losses for poultry producers. Nearly all flocks suffer from some form of coccidiosis caused by different types of Eimeria (E. acervulina, E. brunetti, E. maxima, E. necatrix and E. tenella).1 When not managed properly, coccidia can cause extensive intestinal damage, predisposition to secondary infections and potential mortality in chickens and turkeys.  

Fifty years ago, most broiler producers relied on management practices centered on hygiene and synthetic chemicals when signs of disease emerged. These practices were ineffective due to high challenge and built-up resistance. The introduction of Coban (monensin) 50 years ago by Elanco — as a division of Eli Lilly and Company (now
Elanco Animal Health) — transformed how producers controlled coccidiosis in chickens and turkeys with the use of coccidiostat ionophores. This breakthrough product continues to be key in overall poultry health and welfare in flocks across the United States.

“Before the introduction of Coban, producers relied mostly on treatments when they saw outbreaks, which in many cases was too late, creating devastating losses for their flocks,” said Cynthia Sanchez-McCormack, senior advisor, Global Poultry Intestinal Integrity Leader at Elanco Animal Health. 

Poultry production, as it is known today, dramatically increased in scale with the introduction of ionophores. “It also led to the discovery of so much more in the control of coccidiosis, including additional ionophores and antiprotozoals, paving the way for modern poultry production as we know it today,” said Sanchez-McCormack.     

Companies like Jamaica Broilers Group, which was the first Elanco customer to use Coban, observed poor efficacy and high costs with available products before Coban. “In retrospect, the introduction of Coban as the first ionophore was more pivotal than we realized,” said Syd Mogg, vice president of Wincorp International. “The molecule itself is miraculous. It is safe, effective and well-tolerated by the bird.”

Developed Immunity Within the Bird
Ionophores enable birds to develop immunity while protecting from cocci as compared to trying to eliminate coccidiosis entirely.2
“Before Coban, producers tried to eradicate cocci,” said Sanchez-McCormack. “What that caused was a resistant strain over time that proved to be much more difficult to control.”
The mode of action of an ionophore allows for a small number of cocci to replicate in the intestine that allows the bird to use its own defenses to control the disease. Intestinal Integrity is maintained and helps control secondary infections.2
“A bird’s intestinal system is like their engine,” said Sanchez-McCormack. “All of their potential centers on staying healthy and utilizing energy. This results in birds with better feed conversion, and therefore, contributes to a more sustainable poultry supply.”

Intestinal Integrity Benefits and Improved Sustainability

Coban helps producers push past the treatment of coccidiosis in chickens and turkeys after clinical signs appear and allows for anticoccidial planning, long-term cocci control and other Intestinal Integrity benefits. Coccidiosis will compromise Intestinal Integrity, the optimal functioning of the digestive tract. Since ionophores offer a unique mode of action and provide a wider dose range, producers have more flexibility when developing an anticoccidial program.  

“The early success of the product was improved livability,” said Mogg. “Yet, we soon realized that Coban reducing coccidiosis also affected other biological parameters, such as feed conversion and weight gain.”

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Longevity of Ionophores

While ionophores are classified differently in some countries around the world, they exhibit an important distinction as they are not used in human medicine and cannot contribute to perceived issues of drug resistance in humans. Ionophores are not considered medically important to human medicine by the World Health Organization (WHO), thus making them a sustainable solution to control coccidiosis.

Ionophores have been used for more than 40 years and continue to be an efficacious addition to a anticoccidial program, year after year.

 Leadership in Poultry Intestinal Integrity

The discovery of ionophores by Elanco has led to major advancements in the areas of disease prevention, increased efficiencies, welfare and sustainability in the poultry industry.

“The footprint for Intestinal Integrity leadership for Elanco started with Coban,” said Sanchez-McCormack. “The legacy of the product has allowed Elanco to continue to innovate and deliver products that customers use and trust. It also led to the development of a unique, third-party validated, Intestinal Integrity Index within Elanco’s Health Tracking System (HTSi™), used for monitoring of bird health and improved data-based decisions for customers.”

The introduction of Coban led to many other product developments and offerings by Elanco, including Maxiban, Monteban (narasin) and other Intestinal Integrity products in the U.S. — such as Clinacox and ZoaShield — and tools that help producers control coccidiosis and maintain gut health.

Also, throughout the latter half of the 20th century, Elanco worked on multiple studies for synergistic ionophore combinations. One of the most effective products used by producers today is the chemical and ionophore combination: Maxiban. This combination builds an essential foundation for the birds’ Intestinal Integrity, as it works against coccidia in two ways. Today, just as 50 years ago, anticoccidials are extremely valuable for the worldwide poultry industry. 

“Jamaica Broilers Group and Elanco share common goals of innovation and unwavering commitment to our industry,” said Mogg. “We want to contribute to the production of safe, wholesome and affordable food.”

Producers can contact their Elanco Technical Consultant to discuss ways to develop a well-planned Intestinal Integrity program or learn more about Coban and other Elanco solutions for coccidiosis.

1 Shivaramaiah C., Barta J.R., Hernandez-Velasco X., Téllez G., Hargis B.M.. Coccidiosis: recent advancements in the immunobiology of Eimeria species, preventive measures, and the importance of vaccination as a control tool against these Apicomplexan parasites. Vet Med Res Rep, 5 (2014), pp. 23-34.

2 Peek HW, Landman WJ. Coccidiosis in poultry: anticoccidial products, vaccines and other prevention strategies. Vet Q. 2011;31:143-161.

3 Metzler, M. et al. Effects of monensin feeding and Withdrawal time on growth and carcass composition in broiler chickens. Poultry Sci. 1987;66.9:1451-58.

4 Weppelman, R. et al. Comparison of anticoccidial efficacy, resistance and tolerance of narasin, monensin and lasalocid in chicken battery trials. Poultry Sci. 1977;56.5:1550-59.

5 Harms R, and Buresh R. Influence of salinomycin on the performance of broiler chicks.” Poultry Sci. 1987;66:51-54.