A versatile tool for coccidiosis control

Natural alternatives to antibiotic growth promoters and coccidiostats have been sought for years, not only in the poultry industry. Nevertheless, few solutions present the mentioned efficiency level in different housing practices, coccidiosis management systems and even climate zones. Feeding adiCox® AP is not only performance-enhancing but also beneficial for gut management and immunity.

Paulina Abramowicz-Pindor, PhD
Scientific Director, Research and Development
AdiFeed Ltd.

Coccidiosis, caused by the parasitic protozoan Eimeria, is the number one disease in the poultry industry worldwide. Nine Eimeria species infect chicken colonising intestinal cells, possibly leading to substantial epithelial destruction. Depending on the strain, the host may suffer from malabsorption, poor weight gain and bloody diarrhoea. Both the shape of the oocysts and specific species sections of the GIT (gastrointestinal tract) are examined to identify the strain (Figure 1).

Despite the bloody diarrhoea symptoms, the treatment of the disease is effective and does not incur a considerable expense compared to other consequences. With that in mind, what makes coccidiosis the most critical disease in poultry? The impaired performance does, with losses reaching up to 80% of the expected income. FCR or the feed conversion ratio can measure this. If scoring and OPG examinations are not scheduled regularly, the lack of performance may not be identified promptly. Afterwards, there is not enough time to catch up with the standards. Several methods of coccidiosis control might be applied through feed or water administration of anticoccidial products, coccidia vaccination, or a combination of both. Coccidiostats, to be effective, need to be shifted and managed carefully. The growing phenomenon of AMR (antimicrobial resistance) has changed the distribution patterns and availability of antibiotics used for animal treatment all over the EU. As some of the coccidiostats show an antimicrobial mode of action, legislation was implemented by the European Union in 2006 to withdraw coccidiostats along with antibiotic growth promoters. However, this legislation has been postponed year after year since 2012 for coccidiostats. Nevertheless, the time will come eventually, and not many can afford to spend it waiting for it to happen. On the other hand, the vaccine can be a good solution, but it is still expensive, and a drop in the dynamic of weight gain can be seen after day 21. Some parts of the world, like the USA, use a combination of both, referred to as a bioshuttle. The vaccine is a non-attenuated one administered at day 0, and chemical coccidiostat is provided via feed from day 21. That allows the vaccine strains to multiply and provides no room for field strain due to competitive exclusion (CE) while natural immunity develops. The chemical coccidiostat eliminates everything. Still, the solution cannot be used constantly and needs to be shuttled to keep it effective. All the programmes mentioned need the support of gut health, inflammation control, performance enhancement, and natural immunity boosters. The versatile solution fits every programme, and its results should be comparable with those of conventional tools. Moreover, it should help preserve the effectiveness of chemotherapeutics for the future when they will be needed for treatment instead of prevention. The question of the impact on the environment is also an issue here.

adiCox® AP is a concentrated powder phytobiotic composition of natural ingredients. Micronized herbs enriched with iron provide a metal-organic complex of phytoncides and metal ions. Due to active herbal components like hot pepper, calamus, white mustard, soapwort, and turmeric, antimicrobial, immunomodulating, antioxidative, and growth-promoting properties can be obtained. Extensive research has been conducted at independent universities and institutes to prove the product’s effectiveness. Myriad indicators were measured to describe the properties of adiCox® AP.

At the University of Environmental Life Sciences in Wroclaw (Poland), the thickness of the endothelial tissue was measured on day 28, post-Eimeria challenge, and on day 21. The challenge was designed to cause the lesions in the Ross 308 broilers’ intestines as 6×105 sporulated oocysts were used in a combination of E. acervulina 3.5×105, E. maxima 1×105 and E. tenella 1.5×105. Despite the decreased lesions and less villi damage, the average thickness of the GALT (gut-associated lymphoid tissue) was found to be 25% thicker in birds fed phytobiotic compared to control subjects (Figure 2).

Figure 2. The intestinal lumen of the birds challenged with Eimeria from control and experimental groups
Figure 3. The comparison of OPG parameters calculated for birds treated with Amprolium and adiCox® AP

Although the primary function of the gastrointestinal tract is to digest and absorb nutrients, a well-managed GALT is crucial for optimal animal health and performance. The GIT also serves as a vital barrier preventing the entry of potentially harmful pathogens and other environmental antigens. In case of challenge, there is no better estimation than the comparison with the drug. Amprolium is one of the medications used by choice in the case of coccidiosis. It was a subject of study at the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology in Taiwan. The local breed of Arbor Acres broilers was divided into four treatment groups, where three of them were challenged with 5×103 E. acervulina and 2×104 E. tenella on day 14. The OPG (oocyst per gram) treated with Amprolium (0.0125%) and adiCox® AP 200g/MT of feed showed similar effectiveness: The obtained results for Amprolium and adiCox® AP groups of 0.41×106 and 1.29×106, respectively, while the positive control (infected, untreated) result was 8.72×106, thought (Figure 3).

OPG is a parameter commonly used to describe the severity of coccidiosis infection where the sacrifice of the birds is not necessary. Randomly selected representative faeces samples can provide a clear view of the poultry house. OPG was one of the parameters observed during the challenge with a non-attenuated vaccine of 500 male chicks at the Southern Poultry Study Group facility in the USA. The comparison aimed for the two most likely chosen programmes: stand-alone (single coccidiosis control method) and so-called bioshuttle, all housed in deep litter conditions. The birds assigned to the bioshuttle part were vaccinated at day 0 and, after 21 days, fed the feed with 300 adiCox® AP or chemical coccidiostat (125 ppm) included. The stand-alone programme used a single factor, either adiCox® AP, vaccination or chemical coccidiostat. The highest OPG record belonged to the vaccinated group. The addition of adiCox® AP decreased the number of oocysts per gram in the faeces compared to the vaccinated and untreated subjects (Figure 4).

Figure 4. The comparison of OPG parameters in a stand-alone coccidiosis control programme in the USA
Figure 5. The comparison of FCR parameters
in a stand-alone coccidiosis control programme in the USA

The average FCR of the birds fed adiCox® AP was the lowest in the group with a chemical coccidiostat; nevertheless, the adiCox® AP group showed a significantly lower score compared to the vaccinated group (Figure 5). Similar findings provided the bioshuttle combinations. The one with adiCox® AP was as effective as the combination of the vaccine and chemical coccidiostat, making phytobiotics an effective alternative in this model of coccidiosis control. The study findings demonstrated significant improvements in the performance of birds fed adiCox® AP as a stand-alone or in a “bioshuttle” programme.

As mentioned above, in the case of coccidiosis, the lack of performance is essential. In many countries, antibiotic growth promoters are still available. Even if they were to increase the number of destinations for export, the demand for AGP-free meat would need to be fulfilled. A comparison with conventional methods is necessary for a change in poultry husbandry patterns. The conclusions of the comparison between adiCox® AP and AGP were delivered by Universiti Putra Malaysia, where 180 Ross308 birds were studied for 35 days. Both body weight gain was similar in experimental groups and showed better scores compared to the negative control with no treatment while FCR was 3 points lower in adiCox® AP fed animals respectively (Figure 6).

Figure 6. The comparison of the performance
of the birds fed AGP and adiCox® AP

There are several possible reasons for obtaining the above results. Some of them were described in a study at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Jablonna. The Ross 308 birds fed the complete feed with phytobiotics for 35 days were tested for the concentration of IL-15 in the jejunal mucosa of broiler chickens. Adding 100 grams of adiCox® AP caused a significant eight-fold increase in IL-15 level, affecting specific and unspecific immunity. Moreover, feeding diets supplemented with adiCox® AP reduced TNF content in pectoral muscles compared to the control group. Lower FCR and higher body weight gain in the experimental group supported the above findings. However, considering performance alone is insufficient these days. Global warming and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) are becoming a global issue. Improved digestion reduces the amount of nitrogen excreted and lost in the faeces, which was found in the preliminary study carried out at the Agricultural Technology Research Institute v.v.i. in Czechia. Measured production emissions of 0.0643 kg NH3.animal-1.year-1 in the control flock hall were compared to 0.0500 kg NH3.animal-1.year-1 in the experimental group hall. It was found that the measured production emissions were reduced by 0.0143 kg NH3.animal-1.year-1. This value, converted to a percentage, amounts to 22.2% ammonia reduction, which is fully compliant with the requirements set out in the Goeteborg Protocol and allows to state a claim that this technology may be considered as reducing emission levels for purposes of implementing Good Farming Practices or for purposes of the Integrated Production Authorization. The improved utilisation of dietary nutrients enables better absorption of dietary nitrogen content, preventing the birds from respiratory diseases contributing to animal performance losses and welfare issues. Less dietary protein waste results in less environmental pollution as well.

Natural alternatives to antibiotic growth promoters and coccidiostats have been sought for years, not only in the poultry industry. Nevertheless, few solutions present the mentioned efficiency level in different housing practices, coccidiosis management patterns and even climate zones. Feeding adiCox® AP is not only performance-enhancing but also beneficial for gut management and immunity. It comprises various phytogenic compounds locked in a technology that brings homeostasis to the animal, making it possible to express its full genetic potential. This is a novel methodology for sustainable animal production via optimal use of feed and the animal’s ability to utilise what is provided in the feed.