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United Kingdom

Colibacillosis (E.coli)

close up on chicks


Colibacillosis is caused by bacterial infection with avian pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC) and is found in poultry flocks worldwide. E.coli is a gram-negative, rod-shaped bacterium which is normally found in the intestine of poultry and most other animals. Although most serotypes are non-pathogenic, a limited number produce extra intestinal infections. These can be primary or secondary (in response to an earlier infection such as Mycoplasma infections, ND, IBD, wounds, parasites etc.).

Although a high number of E.coli is maintained in the poultry house environment through faecal contamination, the initial exposure to APEC may occur in the hatchery from infected or contaminated eggs.

Vary depending on specific disease induced by E.coli:

  • Cellulitis

  • Lameness

  • Retarded growth

  • Increased mortality

  • Reduced feed and water intake

  • Colisepticaemia (salpingitis, enteritis, meningitis, omphalitis, pericarditis perihepatitis, peritonitis etc.)

Clinical signs combined with isolation of a pure culture of E. coli from heart blood, liver indicate primary or secondary colibacillosis.

Antibiotics based on antibiotic sensitivity test.

Control measures primarily include elimination of predisposing factors, which includes vaccinating birds against primary causes such as respiratory viruses, coccidiosis and IBD. E.coli is susceptible to disinfectants, therefore good hygiene management both on farm and at the hatchery is imperative.

Live, autogenous and inactivated E. coli vaccines are available and with the drive to reduce the use of antibiotics are becoming increasingly important.