Bacteria like Escherichia coli, or E. coli, and fungi like Aspergillus fumigatus are not uncommon germs in chicken houses but such pathogens can sicken or even kill poultry from backyard flocks and commercial chicken houses alike. And while antibiotics and antifungals can be very effective, they come with serious issues of their own.
Antifungals, for example, cannot be used in chickens destined for the dinner table and antibiotics, which are already linked to the development of resistant pathogens, can leave traces of drugs in meat and eggs.
So is there a better way to prevent the spread of harmful germs? Italian researchers writing in the journal Veterinary Sciences say there may be. They tested various essential oils against E. coli and A. fumigatus and found several volatile extracts effective.
Cinnamon, these researchers said, was the most effective extract against the strain of E. coli they tested but essential oils of lemongrass, litsea, peppermint, basil, rose geranium and clove also worked.
Against the fungus, only extracts of lemon verbena and lemongrass were effective enough to be considered useful.
These essential oils were not given directly to the animals; the extracts were tested in vitro, and were intended to demonstrate that volatile organics could be effective disinfectants for surfaces.
They were also used in dilutions as rich as 10%. That is, of course, several times higher than the dilution most aromatherapy authors cite as the standard for human use.