Probiotics Proven To Be a Viable Alternative to Antibiotics in Treatment of Poultry

We have done several features on the importance of human gut bacteria. But what about farm animals?

In a study conducted by the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science in 2017, it was shown that supplementation of lactic acid bactera, the same found in Kefir and Yoghurt, is effective in combating the Salmonella disease in poultry, which is typically treated by antibiotics. The research to find an alternative was conducted because of the side-effects and reduced quality of produce associated with antibiotic use.

Salmonella is a disease that inhibits lymphocyte (white blood cell) production and encourages heterophil (proinflammatory cykotines) production, which left unchecked can lead to death in chickens (40% mortality) and can be transmitted to humans (1% mortality). Because of this, it is one of the most problematic diseases for poultry farmers.

In the study they introduced the Salmonella virus to the test subjects and treated one group with antibiotics and another was given probiotics in the feeds. There was also a group that was untreated and one final group that was given probiotics but no Salmonella bacteria. A series of blood, stool and tissue tests were conducted on the Chickens at 15, 30, 45 and 60 days. Below is a quick summary of the results, including a heterophil to lymphocyte ratio with 3:1 being that of a healthy animal:

Salmonella only : As expected, high levels of Salmonella bacteria resulting in reduced lymphocyte production, increased heterophils leading to severe illness and death. H-L Ratio- 9:1

Salmonella + Antibiotics: Lower levels of Salmonella bacteria resulting in reduced heterophils but also reduced lymphocyte production, leading to recovery but weakened immune system. H-L Ratio 6:1

Salmonella + Probiotics: Significantly lowers of Salmonella bacteria resulting in reduced hetrophils, increased lymphocyte production leading to rapid recovery of chicken and immune response. H-L Ratio 4:1

Probiotic Only: These chickens were shown to have a healthy H-L ratio of 3:1, increased immune response, faster weight gain, higher energy levels and skin/feather health.

Editors Note:

This is a significant study for all poultry farmers. Probiotics have shown the ability to overwhelm and cure stock of dangerous bacteria. They are also cheaper to apply and healthier for both the chickens and the consumers. Chicken dung free of antibiotics is also much better for being added to soil.

Even those who farm chickens organically have difficulty with this disease and may result to culling or antibiotics in Salmonella outbreaks. This study should provide them with a viable alternative. Here are some suggestions on how get that good bacteria into your birds.

COVID Note:

The heterophil-lymphocyte ratio is under heavy study at the moment as an indicator of severity of COVID infection. This study already shows that it is an accurate predictor of symptom progression. When you take this along with the research showing the importance of Gut bacteria in covid infection, it is a sure bet that probiotics are a good aid in COVID infection.

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