Health & Nutrition Challenges

Colibacillosis in poultry

Colibacillosis in Poultry

Colibacillosis, caused by the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli), is a significant infectious disease affecting poultry worldwide. It can lead to substantial economic losses due to increased mortality, decreased growth rates, and reduced egg production. This overview aims to provide a thorough understanding of Colibacillosis in poultry, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention strategies.

What is Escherichia coli?

Escherichia coli, or E. coli, is a type of bacteria commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract of poultry. While some strains of E. coli are harmless, others are pathogenic and can cause illness and lead to Colibacillosis, which is a significant bacterial infection in poultry. These pathogenic E. coli strains, such as Avian Pathogenic E. coli (APEC), have the ability to colonize the intestines, invade tissues, and cause disease. Proper management practices and biosecurity measures are crucial in preventing and controlling E. coli infections in poultry.


Colibacillosis is primarily caused by pathogenic strains of E. coli, particularly those belonging to certain serotypes (e.g., Avian Pathogenic E. coli or APEC). These pathogenic strains possess virulence factors that enable them to colonize the poultry's gastrointestinal tract, invade tissues, and cause disease. Factors such as stress, poor hygiene, overcrowding, and inadequate biosecurity measures contribute to the risk of colibacillosis outbreaks.


Colibacillosis can manifest differently depending on the age, type of poultry (broilers, layers, or breeders), and the specific organs affected. Common clinical signs include:

  1. Respiratory Signs: Sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, and swollen sinuses.
  2. Digestive Signs: Diarrhea, increased water consumption, reduced feed intake, and decreased weight gain.
  3. Reproductive Signs: Reduced fertility, egg production, and quality, along with eggshell abnormalities.
  4. Pericarditis: Inflammation of the pericardium leading to heart-related symptoms.
  5. Septicemia: Sudden death, depression, and huddling.


 Accurate diagnosis of Colibacillosis involves a combination of clinical signs, post-mortem findings, and laboratory tests. These may include bacteriological examination, serotyping, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and histopathological analysis. Proper sampling techniques and consultation with a veterinary diagnostic laboratory are essential for reliable diagnosis.


Treatment of Colibacillosis typically involves the administration of antibiotics, preferably guided by antimicrobial susceptibility testing. Commonly used antibiotics include fluoroquinolones, third-generation cephalosporins, and trimethoprim-sulfonamides. However, due to increasing concerns about antibiotic resistance, prudent and responsible use of antibiotics is crucial. Local regulations and guidelines must be strictly followed, and alternative therapies should be considered when appropriate.

Prevention and Control 

Prevention of Colibacillosis relies on a combination of measures and strategies.  including:

  1. Biosecurity: Strict biosecurity protocols, including proper hygiene, control of visitors, and measures to prevent cross-contamination, are essential to limit the introduction and spread of E. coli.
  2. Water and Feed Management: Ensuring a clean water supply and providing high-quality feed can reduce stress and enhance the birds' immune system, reducing their susceptibility to Colibacillosis.
  3. Vaccination: Vaccines targeting specific E. coli strains, such as APEC, can help reduce the severity and incidence of Colibacillosis. Consultation with a veterinarian is recommended to develop an appropriate vaccination program.
  4. Environmental Management: Proper ventilation, temperature control, litter management, and sufficient space allocation can optimize bird health and reduce the risk of E. coli infection.
  5. Probiotics and Prebiotics: The use of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) and their substrates (prebiotics) can promote healthy gut microbiota and provide competitive exclusion against pathogenic E. coli.
  6. Genetic Selection: Selecting poultry strains with improved disease resistance and enhanced immune response can contribute to reducing the incidence of

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