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Necrotic Enteritis (NE)

Enterotoxemia, Rot Gut

Necrotic enteritis (NE) is a significant, complex, multi-factorial disease caused by Clostridium perfringens. C. perfringens is a Gram-positive spore-forming bacterium that is found naturally throughout the environment and gastrointestinal tract of animals. Low numbers of C. perfringens are often found in the gastrointestinal system of healthy chickens. It is when high levels of C. perfringens exist is when it becomes harmful and increases the risk of chickens' developing NE. NE is characterized by high mortality and significant damage and decay of the primary organs within the chicken's gastrointestinal system.

Poultry management is thought to be a key component of the development of NE outbreaks in chickens. Any factor that causes increased stress can suppress the chicken's immune system and offset the balance of flora in their gastrointestinal system, resulting in high levels of C. perfringens. Some of the factors identified to increase the risk of NE in chickens include:
  • Mycotoxins: Chronic consumption of deoxynivalenol (DON) mycotoxins, which are a frequent contaminate of poultry feeds.
  • Poor sanitary practices
  • Overcrowding
  • Concurrent infection with Eimeria
  • Nutrition: Diet with high levels of non-starch polysaccharides, protein, fishmeal or coarse material.
Outbreaks of NE in chicken flocks are sporadic and the clinical illness of NE is short, with birds dying within 1-2 hrs after initial clinical signs become apparent. In many cases, no clinical signs may be apparent until a number of birds start to die.


Loss of appetite
Dark, often blood-stained feces
Ruffled feathers
Foul odor
Reluctance to move
Sudden death
Reduced weight gain


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Clostridium perfringens Enterotoxin bacteriology
  • Fecal cytology
  • Tissue biopsy


ProbioticsBacillus and LactobacillusZhou M et al., 2016
Cabbage tree5g/kg added to feedVidanarachchi et al., 2006
Hops (lupulone)62.5-250 ppm added to dietSiragusa et al., 2008
Thymol150-200 g/tnTimbermont et al., 2010
Capsicum oleoresin4 mg/kg added to feedHyen Lee et al., 2013
Grape seed extract (GSE)7.2g/kgViveros et al., 2011
Capsaicin (Chili pepper)150-300 ppm added to dietJamroz et al., 2003
Bacitracin200-400 mg/gal for 5-7 days
Penicillin1,500,000 u/gal for 5 days
Lincomycin64 mg/gal for 7 days, administered in the drinking water
Tylosin phosphate100 ppm administered in feed


  • Biosecurity
  • Prevent chickens' exposure to temperature extremes that may bring on cold or heat stress in birds: A significant increase in the pH and C. perfringens counts were observed in chickens challenged by cold stress.
  • Properly store all poultry feeds and inspect on a daily basis.
  • Don't stock high densities of birds together in the same environment
  • Supplement diet with yeast extract, prebiotics (MOS), probiotics, organic minerals and enzymes

Scientific References

Good Overviews

Age Range

Young chickens which have immature immune systems are more at risk of NE.

Risk Factors

  • Coccidiosis: Infestation of the chicken's GI tract with Eimeria spp
  • Nutrition : abrupt changes in feed, diets rich in fish proteins or wheat, high levels of non-starch polysaccharides
  • Poor sanitation: Chickens living in poor living conditions with high concentrations of birds and soiled bedding
  • Temperature fluctuations: Chickens undergoing cold or heat stress
  • Feed contamination : Consumption of feedstuff contaminated with DON mycotoxins