Necrotic and Ulcerative Enteritis in Poultry

Small and Backyard Flocks June 13, 2013 Print Friendly and PDF

Necrotic enteritis and ulcerative enteritis (UE) are similar diseases, although they are caused by different organisms. UE usually affects gamebirds—quail in particular—and is caused by the bacterium Clostridium colinum. Necrotic enteritis affects chickens and turkeys and is caused by Clostridium perfringens.

These diseases are transmitted through clostridial spores that can remain dormant in the environment for years. Once ingested by birds, the spores germinate and become capable of causing disease. The birds then shed the organism in feces. Other birds in the flock become infected from fecal material in the litter, water, or feed.

Clinical Signs

Enteritis is an inflammation of the digestive tract. Infected birds fail to thrive and have diarrhea and weight loss. In severe cases, death can ensue.


Antibiotics, specifically those designed to affect gram-positive bacteria (such as antibiotics containing virginiamycin, bacitracin, or lincomycin), can be used to treat necrotic and ulcerative enteritis. As with any medication, it is important to read the label and follow all instructions. Enteritis is often a secondary infection in a flock with a coccidial problem. For this reason it is important to treat an infected flock for coccidiosis as well.

Prevention and Control 

To prevent infection, it is important to maintain effective sanitation and biosecurity. Avoid mixing birds of different ages in the same pen or placing new flocks in a pen without cleaning and disinfecting from the previous flock. Using an acidifying litter treatment to disinfect a pen can reduce the bacterial load.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.