Necrotic enteritis (NE) has become one of the most important diseases of modern global poultry production, with an estimated cost of around US$6 billion per annum in lost production and control strategies. The rise in prominence of NE is attributed to the prohibition of antibiotics as growth promoters (AGP) or the voluntary implementation of ‘drug-free’ broiler production programmes. Pathogenic strains of Clostridium perfringens are responsible for NE, with those expressing the NetB toxin a definitive cause in disease models. C. perfringens are normal inhabitants of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) but these are typically non-pathogenic strains. When intestinal health is compromised, the prevailing conditions allow the establishment and proliferation of pathogenic, toxin-secreting strains of C. perfringens. The toxin(s) damages the intestinal epithelium and causes disease. Certain dietary-related factors are recognised as predisposing poultry to NE. This review will focus on the key initiators of NE and will outline the most appropriate strategies to counteract these predisposing factors and prevent NE. The continual push, globally, for poultry production programmes with less antibiotic use will sustain NE as an important and costly poultry disease that requires dietary intervention.
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