Gastrointestinal Microbiota and Their Manipulation for Improved Growth and Performance in Chickens


The gut of warm-blooded animals is colonized by microbes possibly constituting at least 100 times more genetic material of microbial cells than that of the somatic cells of the host. These microbes have a profound effect on several physiological functions ranging from energy metabolism to the immune response of the host, particularly those associated with the gut immune system. The gut of a newly hatched chick is typically sterile but is rapidly colonized by microbes in the environment, undergoing cycles of development. Several factors such as diet, region of the gastrointestinal tract, housing, environment, and genetics can influence the microbial composition of an individual bird and can confer a distinctive microbiome signature to the individual bird. The microbial composition can be modified by the supplementation of probiotics, prebiotics, or synbiotics. Supplementing these additives can prevent dysbiosis caused by stress factors such as infection, heat stress, and toxins that cause dysbiosis. The mechanism of action and beneficial effects of probiotics vary depending on the strains used. However, it is difficult to establish a relationship between the gut microbiome and host health and productivity due to high variability between flocks due to environmental, nutritional, and host factors. This review compiles information on the gut microbiota, dysbiosis, and additives such as probiotics, postbiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics, which are capable of modifying gut microbiota and elaborates on the interaction of these additives with chicken gut commensals, immune system, and their consequent effects on health and productivity. Factors to be considered and the unexplored potential of genetic engineering of poultry probiotics in addressing public health concerns and zoonosis associated with the poultry industry are discussed

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