April 20, 2024


US researchers explore alternatives to antibiotics in poultry feed



As the poultry industry is transitioning towards antibiotic-free production to address market demands and slow down the spread, researchers from Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), US aim to explore alternatives to antibiotics in poultry feed, Pennsylvania State University reported.


Led by Erika Ganda, assistant professor of food animal microbiomes, a Penn State research team studied natural feed additives as potential substitutes for antimicrobial growth promoters. Published in Poultry Science, their findings focused on the effects of a probiotic and a blend of essential oils on broilers' growth and gut health.


The study revealed that supplementing the diet of young chicks with a probiotic over 21 days significantly increased the abundance of beneficial intestinal microorganisms. However, the use of these feed additives in broiler production is still in its early stages, emphasizing the need for further research to evaluate health outcomes and mechanisms.


Ana Fonseca, a graduate assistant in Ganda's research group, spearheaded the study, which involved 320 one-day-old chicks raised for 21 days in 32 randomly allocated cages. Treatments included a standard diet, a standard diet mixed with antibiotics, and diets supplemented with essential oils or probiotics.


Probiotics are live microorganisms that confer health benefits by supporting beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract, while essential oils possess various antimicrobial properties. The researchers monitored body weight gain, feed intake, and feed conversion ratio throughout the study and analysed excreta samples to identify bacterial strains.


Supplementing chicken diets with probiotics or antibiotics significantly altered the relative abundance of bacterial strains compared to the standard diet, but essential oils did not show similar effects. Despite these findings, essential oils may still present a promising alternative to antimicrobial growth promoters, although further research is warranted to understand their effectiveness fully.


-      Pennsylvania State University

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