Background: Intensive poultry production systems depend on chemoprophylaxis with anticoccidial drugs to combat infection. A floor-pen study was conducted to evaluate the anticoccidial effect of Artemisia annua and Foeniculum vulgare on Eimeria tenella infection. Five experimental groups were established: negative control (untreated, unchallenged); positive control (untreated, challenged); a group medicated with 125 ppm lasalocid and challenged; a group medicated with A. annua leaf powder at 1.5% in feed and challenged; and a group treated with the mixed oils of A. annua and Foeniculum vulgare in equal parts, 7.5% in water and challenged. The effects of A. annua and oil extract of A. annua + F. vulgare on E. tenella infection were assessed by clinical signs, mortality, fecal oocyst output, faeces, lesion score, weight gain, and feed conversion.
Results: Clinical signs were noticed only in three chickens from the lasalocid group, six from the A. annua group, and nine from the A. annua + F. vulgare group, but were present in 19 infected chickens from the positive control group. Bloody diarrhea was registered in only two chickens from A. annua group, but in 17 chickens from the positive control group. Mortality also occurred in the positive control group (7/20). Chickens treated with A. annua had a significant reduction in faecal oocysts (95.6%; P = 0.027) and in lesion score (56.3%; P = 0.005) when compared to the positive control. At the end of experiment, chickens treated with A. annua leaf powder had the highest body weight gain (68.2 g/day), after the negative control group, and the best feed conversion (1.85) among all experimental groups.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that A. annua leaf powder (Aa-p), at 1.5% of the daily diet post-infection, can be a valuable alternative for synthetic coccidiostats, such as lasalocid.