Pioneer colonizers: Bacteria that alter the chicken intestinal morphology and development of the microbiota
Microbes commonly administered to chickens facilitate development of a beneficial microbiome that improves gut function, feed conversion and reduces pathogen colonization. Competitive exclusion products, derived from the cecal contents of hens and shown to reduce Salmonella colonization in chicks, possess important pioneer-colonizing bacteria needed for proper intestinal development and animal growth. We hypothesized that inoculation of these pioneer-colonizing bacteria to day of hatch chicks would enhance the development of their intestinal anatomy and microbiome. A competitive exclusion product was administered to broiler chickens, in their drinking water, at day of hatch, and its impact on intestinal morphometrics, intestinal microbiome, and production parameters, was assessed relative to a control, no treatment group. 16S rRNA gene, terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) was used to assess ileal community composition. The competitive exclusion product, administered on day of hatch, increased villus height, villus height/width ratio and goblet cell production similar to 1.25-fold and expression of enterocyte sugar transporters 1.25 to 1.5-fold in chickens at 3 days of age, compared to the control group. As a next step, chicks were inoculated with a defined formulation, containing Bacteroidia and Clostridia representing pioneercolonizing bacteria of the two major bacterial phyla present in the competitive exclusion product. The defined formulation, containing both groups of bacteria, were shown, dependent on age, to improve villus height (jejunum: 1.14 to 1.46fold; ileum: 1.17-fold), goblet cell numbers (ileum 1.32 to 2.51-fold), and feed efficiency (1.18-fold, day 1) while decreasing Lactobacillus ileal abundance by onethird to half in birds at 16 and 42 days of age, respectively; compared to the phosphate buffered saline treatment group. Therefore, specific probiotic formulations containing pioneer colonizing species can provide benefits in intestinal development, feed efficiency and body weight gain.