Gut bacteria study aims to improve poultry health

By Chloe Ryan

- Last updated on GMT

Research into poultry health and performance is being funded by the Discovery Early Career Research Award
Research into poultry health and performance is being funded by the Discovery Early Career Research Award

Related tags Bacteria Livestock Poultry

Providing beneficial strains of friendly gut bacteria at the time of hatching could improve poultry health and performance. 

That is according to Dr Dana Stanley of Australia’s CQ University who has embarked on a $360,000 research project to find out more, funded by the Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA) process of the Australian Research Council.

The Rockhampton-based researcher aims to improve poultry health and performance through microbiota [the population of microorganisms living in the intestine] manipulations. This means introducing different bacteria to poultry when they hatch to see how this affects their need for antibiotics as they mature.

“The project aims to develop methods to modulate microbiota to improve poultry health and productivity and reduce the need for antibiotics,”​ says Stanley.

Stanley told Australia’s ABC​ rural news she recently completed an experiment which involved putting sterilised quail eggs in a room that did not contain any bacteria. When the quails hatched, they were inoculated with three to four different strains of bacteria.

They then lived in the sterilised environment for seven days to allow the bacteria to become established in the gut. “After seven days, they joined with other chickens that had about 700 different bacteria species in their gut,”​ Stanley said. “Even after four to five weeks of being co-housed with other birds, they kept those bacteria they developed in the first seven days of life. So basically, those bacteria that get into the gut first can get established and reach very high numbers.

“Once the microbiota is stable, you can add any kind of antibiotic or probiotic and they will respond to it and change. As soon as you remove the antibiotic or probiotic, they will go back to their original structure.

“If we want to manipulate gut bacteria with probiotics, we usually have a very small window. Accordingly, at-hatch, administration of proven beneficial strains to poultry is likely to ensure permanent colonisation with beneficial bacteria.”

This process would improve both the productivity and health of poultry and other agricultural animals, Stanley said. The research funding will allow her to conduct more research and find out more about how the poultry industry could benefit.

Related topics Protein

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