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Clostridium perfringens Contamination Identified in Poultry Feed Ingredients


Clostridium perfringens was highly concentrated in animal protein–rich poultry feed ingredients and demonstrated high sensitivity to several antibiotics.

Clostridium perfringens was highly concentrated in animal protein—rich poultry feed ingredients and demonstrated high sensitivity to several antibiotics, according to study results recently reported in Animal Science.

C. perfringens is ubiquitous, naturally occurring in soil and rotting vegetation. It can also be found in contaminated feed. Interestingly, animal protein ingredients in poultry feed increase the risk of C. perfringens infection, namely necrotic enteritis.

In its acute form, necrotic enteritis is highly fatal in broiler birds; subclinical necrotic enteritis decreases digestion and absorption, leading to decreased production performance. These negative health consequences of C. perfringens in poultry can cause significant economic losses.


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C. perfringens is also an important public health issue, given that it is a major source of human foodborne disease.

For the current study, a team of Indian researchers tested for C. perfringens in 298 poultry feed samples from various sources. After isolating C. perfringens, researchers confirmed its identity using Gram’s staining, the stormy fermentation test (identifies bacterial gas and acid production), and the lecithinase test (detects bacterial lecithinase production). The disk diffusion method was used to determine C. perfringens’ antibiotic sensitivity pattern.

Contamination Levels

Of the 298 samples, 101 (34%) were positive for C. perfringens. Concentrations of C. perfringens were highest in the animal protein—rich poultry feed ingredients:

  • Fish meal: 55%
  • Bone meal only: 45%
  • Meat and bone meal: 43%
  • Dry fish: 38%

Contamination levels were lowest in vegetable protein sources, including maize and soya meal. However, because so few samples in the study contained vegetable proteins, it could not be definitively concluded that vegetable protein sources in poultry feed have low C. perfringens contamination levels.

These results were similar to results of previous studies reporting contamination levels of C. perfringens in poultry feed ingredients.

Antibiotic Sensitivity

C. perfringens was highly sensitive to most of the antibiotics used in the study. It demonstrated 100% sensitivity to gentamicin and over 90% sensitivity to chlortetracycline (97%) and gatifloxacin (93%). To ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin, and lincomycin, C. perfringens demonstrated 87% sensitivity. These findings were similar to those of previous studies that evaluated C. perfringens’ antibiotic sensitivity pattern.

Sensitivity was low to neomycin (20%) and penicillin G (0%). These results contrasted with those of previous studies, which reported neomycin and penicillin sensitivities of 100%. The researchers suggested the differences in penicillin G sensitivities could be due to the poultry industry’s indiscriminate use of this antibiotic.

The study’s findings, researchers wrote, highlight the need for “extensive surveillance of C. perfringens in poultry feed ingredients.” Such surveillance will help “formulate suitable alternative strategies to control this organism in poultry feed.”

Dr. JoAnna Pendergrass received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Following veterinary school, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Emory University’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center. Dr. Pendergrass is the founder and owner of JPen Communications, a medical communications company.

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