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Effects of transferring gut microbiota through cohousing on bone health and immunity of broiler chickens

2022 CPRF,Behaviour & Welfare
The growth rate of broiler chickens has increased by over 300% in the last 50 years due to intense genetic selection and improved nutrition. However, this quick growth has led to increased leg disorders. Several studies have reported that 14% to 50% of broilers suffer from lameness, posing welfare and economic issues. The gut microbiota plays a key role in host health and production. The dynamic interactions between a host and its microbiota confers numerous benefits on the host systems including skeletal and immune systems. The gut microbiota matures gradually with time. Helping gut microbiota to reach early maturity and establish earlier interactions with the host could improve efficiency of host systems. Whether cohousing with older broiler chickens could speed up the maturation of microbiota in day-old chicks and subsequently improve production, microbial diversity, immunity, and bone health is unknown. In this study, day-old broiler chickens were cohoused with 14 (A14) or 42 (B42) days old chickens for 7 days while control day-old chickens (Control) were reared without cohousing with older chickens. After cohousing, these young chickens were raised for another 35 days. Cecal contents, tibial bones and cecal tonsils were collected at days 14 and 42 for analyses of cecal microbiota (16S rRNA gene sequencing), bone traits (computed tomography scanning) and T cells (CD4+, CD8+ and CD4+CD25+ T cells) (flow cytometry), respectively. The production related parameters were recorded weekly while mortality was recorded on daily basis. The data were analyzed through one-way ANOVA or Kruskal-Wallis test. The alpha diversity of microbiota in the B42 group (P= 0.019) was significantly higher while the beta diversity of both A14 (P= 0.020) and B42 groups (P= 0.003) were significantly different from the Control at day 42. Further, the relative abundance of Firmicutes was significantly higher in the B42 group (68% vs 53 % for the Control) while the relative abundance of Bacteroidetes was lower in the B42 group (29% vs 46% for the Control) at day 42. Both, A14 and B42 groups, significantly improved the tibial bone length (111 and 112 vs 102mm for the Control) and cortical bone mineral content (2.2 and 2.5 vs 1.8 g for the Control) and notably decreased tibial bone pore volume (34 and 40 vs 48mm3 for the Control) and diameter (0.7 and 0.8 vs 1.1mm for the Control) at day 42. The percentage of T regulatory cells (CD4+CD25+ T cells) was significantly higher in the B42 group (5% vs 3.5% for the Control) while the percentage of CD4+ T cells was significantly lower in the B42 group (12% vs 20% for the Control) at day 42. No significant changes were observed in CD8+ T cells population among three groups both at days 14 and 42. Finally, the cohousing did not affect production and mortality parameters. In summary, cohousing with older chickens improved the diversity and composition of cecal microbiota, enhanced tibial bone health and skewed the gut immune homeostasis toward anti-inflammatory state. These results have suggested that the deep litter method could be explored to improve poultry bone health.
Tags :
bone health,gut microbiota,Immunity
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McGill University

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