Devenish leads trial in poultry gut health testing

Devenish has unveiled the results of an innovative trial into assessing the gut health of chickens.

Recently published in the Poultry Science Journal, the 2017 trial, in partnership with the University of Lincoln, proved a link between microbiota sampled from the cloaca (the chamber into which the intestinal, urinary and generative canals discharge) and that within the caecum (the large intestine).

Results proved that effective gut health sampling can take place from the cloaca of live birds, rather than the typical sampling of gut microbiota that takes place post mortem.

47 birds were sampled by an authorised veterinarian across eight flocks, each from a separate farm, from two locations in Northern Ireland. The birds were managed under the same production system. All samples were collected from animals selected for routine veterinary screening.

“Gut microbiota play an important role in animal health,” said Dr Caroline Donaldson, poultry product development manager, Devenish. 

“This study tested whether cloacal microbiota can accurately reflect caecal microbiota, that is, tell us more about the microbiota that would be collected in the large bowel.

“Key findings showed that there was a significant positive correlation between cloacal and caecal bacteria (Rho = 0.66, P = 2×10-16). Paired analyses also revealed that cloacal communities were more closely related to caecal communities from the same individual than expected by chance – underlining the accuracy of the results.

“The study revealed that the type of bacteria in caeca may be reasonably inferred by sampling cloaca. Importantly, it highlights that this method, centred in animal welfare and sustainability, is a viable way of sampling poultry for an assessment of gut health and microbiota population.

“As a company that is driven by finding sustainable solutions to animal, environmental and human health, Devenish is proud to have pioneered this research in partnership with the University of Lincoln, which we can now utilise with confidence in our poultry performance products and systems.

“Ultimately, this method will allow us to measure microflora health in a way that is non-invasive. In turn we will be able to develop products to improve gut microflora and, in doing so, improve bird health and digestibility so they can make more efficient use of nutrients,” Dr Caroline Donaldson said.

Matthew Goddard, Professor of Population and Evolutionary Biology, University of Lincoln, added: “We are increasingly realising that gut microbes are very important in both human and animal health. To make advances in our understanding, we need to be able to sample gut microbes to evaluate, for example, the effect of different feed formulations.

“Microbes in mid- and hind-gut areas may only be harvested from poultry after slaughter. To maximise animal welfare and to be able to follow the same bird through time, we have developed a DNA based method for cloacal sampling from live birds that provides a good reflection of the microbes in caeca,” Professor Goddard said.

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