KENYA – Researchers at Egerton University have made strides in combating a pervasive poultry disease with the development of a herbal remedy known as Aloe Secundiflora Herbal Extract (ASHE).

This innovation addresses the growing issue of drug resistance resulting from the use of prophylactic antibiotics in poultry.

The herbal extract, derived from Aloe Vera powder, offers a natural preventive measure against Coccidiosis, a disease that significantly impacts poultry farming in Kenya.

Lead Scientist Professor Charles Muleke Inyangwa highlighted that ASHE provides a solution without the risk of transmitting drug-resistant bacteria to humans.

“Our ASHE innovation offers hope. Since it is a natural product, it ensures that poultry meat and eggs remain free from harmful drug residues, addressing both health and safety concerns. The extract’s effectiveness in trials has given farmers renewed optimism,” said Inyangwa.

The use of antibiotics to prevent diseases in poultry has led to the emergence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns that AMR in animals threatens the livelihoods of millions of subsistence livestock keepers.

FAO projects that in 10 years, over 24 million people will slide into extreme poverty due to AMR. In Kenya, 40% of poultry diseases have shown resistance to artificial drugs, according to Inyangwa.

Economic impact of Coccidiosis

Coccidiosis remains one of Kenya’s most costly poultry diseases, affecting over 25% of the country’s poultry and causing significant losses for farmers.

In regions where poultry farming is a critical source of income and nutrition, parasitic diseases have devastating effects as they impair growth, suppress immune systems, and lead to high mortality rates among chickens.

ASHE has shown promise in preventing Coccidiosis in 80% of free-range chickens, potentially saving the sector millions.

Production and approval process

The ASHE remedy works by inhibiting the hatching of parasite eggs and cells. Trials have demonstrated a reduction in faecal egg counts by 53% and oocyst counts by 80.8% compared to untreated controls. The herbal extract is administered to birds through water and can also be used to treat roundworms.

The journey of ASHE begins in Baringo County, where Aloe Secundiflora is harvested. The leaves are chopped to extract the gel, which then undergoes a rigorous freeze-drying process.

The result is a fine powder, packaged into 30-gram containers for use. Inyangwa and his team are currently seeking approval from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) for the sale of the drug to farmers.

Impact on food safety

Free-range chickens, which feed on anything edible they come across, are predisposed to deadly bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus, and Salmonella typhi. These bacteria can cause food poisoning in humans if consumed.

ASHE offers a safer alternative by reducing the risk of harmful bacteria transmission from poultry to humans.

The Safe Food Reference Laboratory at Egerton University, where ASHE was developed, is funded by the National Research Fund. The team behind ASHE is hopeful that once approved, the herbal remedy will provide a much-needed solution to the poultry farming sector, ensuring both economic stability for farmers and food safety for consumers.

“We’ve worked hard to develop a product that meets the needs of our farmers. Our trials have shown that ASHE is effective, and we are confident it will be a game-changer once it hits the market,” Inyangwa told the media.

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