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PHOTOS: COBB-VANTRESS


Gut health and dysbiosis


Maintaining the balance of the gut flora is key to preventing dysbiosis. Preventing dysbiosis can improve poultry performance, health and welfare. It can also reduce the environmental impact of the poultry industry.


BY HOSAM AMRO, SENIOR MANAGER TECHNICAL SERVICE COBB EUROPE N


ormally, the small intestine contains few bacteria, but the large intestine and caeca contain billions of commensal bacteria (referred to as the intesti- nal microbiome). The microbiome significantly im-


pacts gut health and contributes to the overall health status of the chicken host. The community’s primary function is to further digest and ferment feed, converting it to nutrients that can be absorbed by the intestines. However, the gut mi- crobial community also performs immune system related functions. In newly hatched chicks, these bacteria stimulate intestinal tract development and educate the immune sys- tem. Once established, the microbial community functions as an immune defence system preventing colonisation of patho- genic bacteria by simply taking up space, creating intestinal wall barriers and producing antimicrobial peptides.


Recognising dysbiosis There is a natural progression and change in the microbial community over time (presence, absence and prevalence). These changes occur in response to decreasing oxygen avail- ability (aerobic respiration and organic compound oxidation), intestinal wall changes (crypt development and mucus secre- tion), feed and water ingestion, and environmental inputs (litter pecking). Significant disturbances, or dysbiosis, are ab- normal microbial imbalances. Dysbiosis can lead to the over-


growth of some commensal members (e.g., E. coli and/or Clostridium spp.). When this happens, commensals can be- come opportunistic pathogens causing a gut immune re- sponse. Diarrhoea is usually the first sign as the host attempts to re-establish the balance. In severe cases, the mucosal cell layer of the gut wall lining can be penetrated by the oppor- tunistic bacteria or their toxins causing enteritis. Dysbiosis may be associated with litter that is wet and con- tains excess caecal contents. It is more predominant in coun- tries that restrict antimicrobial growth promoters and thera- peutic antimicrobial usage. The condition is seen mainly in rapidly growing broilers with good feed intake. Poultry excrete urine and faeces simultaneously through the cloaca. In some cases, it is difficult to distinguish elevated urine output from increased faecal water loss or diarrhoea. Flushing, commonly referred to as an increased water excre- tion rate, is a normal physiological response to nutrition that induces water, electrolyte, pH, or osmotic imbalance. A rela- tively minor nutritional imbalance can induce an osmoregula- tory disorder and flushing. It is important to be aware that flushing and dysbiosis may have similar symptoms.


The cost of dysbiosis Although the microbiome is beneficial, the chicken still must keep this population in check through the production of anti- bodies and mucin secretions. During dysbiosis, the immune system must rapidly increase antibodies and mucin secre- tions to control bacterial population shifts. This requires di- verting energy and protein production away from growth and maintenance and toward immune responses. Thus, a sig- nificant dysbiosis event can cause a reduction in final live weight and hence reduce producer profits. Dysbiosis rarely impacts the entire flock. Thus, flock


A good start in rearing can build a healthy GIT system and microbiome. 102


▶ GUT HEALTH | DECEMBER 2020


A reduction in water intake can be an indication of dysbiosis.


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