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Tracking Chemicals that Control Coccidiosis in Poultry

By Linda McGraw
September 20, 2000

Antibodies developed by Agricultural Research Service scientists could become the basis for a test to help poultry producers protect birds against a major chicken disease, coccidiosis, while reducing the potential for antibiotic residues in poultry.

Each year, coccidiosis costs U.S. poultry producers an estimated $600 million in treatment and low carcass weights. Nicarbazin, a pharmacological agent that controls coccidiosis in broiler production, is usually added to the chickens’ feed. Nearly all commercial poultry feed contains some type of medication.

The problem has been a lack of a method to determine the appropriate nicarbazin levels that need to be added to the feed. Producers could be paying for feed with inadequate levels of nicarbazin, or for feed with higher levels that may result in residues in meat products.

Now, Ross C. Beier, an ARS chemist in College Station, Texas, has developed antibodies for nicarbazin. The antibodies will first be utilized in an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) kit.

After successfully developing the ELISA kit for use in the laboratory, International Diagnostic Systems Corporation in St. Joseph, Mich., will evaluate the antibodies as the basis for an easy-to-use field test. ARS has applied for a patent on the antibodies, which were developed under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with IDS.

An ELISA test would allow for direct checks for appropriate levels of nicarbazin in animal feed. This would ensure that the poultry received the necessary dose to prevent coccidiosis, but not more. It will also help USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) officials be sure that producers have complied with federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations preventing residues in meats.

The ELISA kit could be available for use by the quality control departments of feed manufacturers by the spring of 2001. ARS is the chief scientific research agency for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Scientific contact: Ross C. Beier, ARS Food and Feed Safety Research Unit, College Station, Texas, phone (979) 260-9411, fax (979) 260-9332,