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Avian Pathol. 2011 Aug;40(4):341-7. doi: 10.1080/03079457.2011.590967.

Necrotic enteritis in broilers: an updated review on the pathogenesis.

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Department of Pathology, Bacteriology and Poultry Diseases, Research Group Veterinary Public Health and Zoonoses, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Salisburylaan 133, B-9820, Merelbeke, Belgium.


Clostridium perfringens-induced necrotic enteritis and related subclinical disease have become economically significant problems for the broiler industry. Fortunately, scientific interest in this topic has grown: new C. perfringens virulence factors have been discovered and new insight gained about the pathogenesis of necrotic enteritis. It has been shown that alpha toxin, for a long time thought to be the key virulence factor, is not essential for the development of the disease. Moreover, it is now clearly established that only certain C. perfringens strains are capable of inducing necrotic enteritis under specific conditions that predispose to the disease and they constitute only a minority in the intestinal tract of healthy chickens. A novel pore-forming toxin, NetB, has been identified in these virulent avian C. perfringens strains. Using a gene knockout mutant, it has been shown that NetB is a critical virulence factor in the pathogenesis of necrotic enteritis in broilers. In addition to toxin production, other factors have been described that contribute to the ability of certain C. perfringens strains to cause necrotic enteritis in broilers. It has been suggested that proteolytic enzymes play an important role in the initial stages of necrotic enteritis since the villi are first affected at the level of the basement membrane and the lateral domain of the enterocytes. In field outbreaks of necrotic enteritis, a single clone of C. perfringens is dominant in intestines of all affected birds, as opposed to the mixture of different C. perfringens strains that can be isolated from healthy bird intestines. It has been proposed that bacteriocin production is responsible for the dominance of a single strain in necrotic enteritis cases. Furthermore, it has been shown that virulent strains are more able to adhere to extracellular matrix molecules than non-virulent strains. The current knowledge on the pathogenesis of the disease has been summarized in this short review.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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