Gut microbiota and digestion in poultry


Relevance of Gut Microbiota for Digestion

by Jürgen Zentek, Farshad Goodarzi Boroojeni, Wilfried Vahjen, Institute of Animal Nutrition, Freie Universität Berlin, Königin-Luise-Straße 49,14195 Berlin, Germany.


Microbes contribute to the digestive process in chicken. Bacterial fermentation of non-digestible carbohydrates and dietary fibre helps to generate energy for the host. Thus, microbial fermentation can be considered as trophic factor especially when high fibre ingredients and by-products are used.

Protein fermentation yields a spectrum of undesirable metabolic products such as ammonia that can have negative effects on animal health and performance. However, the impact on the host is not yet clear and deserves more in depth work in chicken.

Fat digestion is affected by microbial activities in the small intestine, especially bacteria with the ability to deconjugate bile acids can reduce the apparent digestibility of fat in the small intestine.

Besides the gross composition of the diet, minor components such as amino acids and other feed additives have been shown to affect the microbial composition, metabolic activity and may impact animal health.

Manipulation of the intestinal microbiota and optimizing the interaction with the host organism is a promising scientific field to improve animal performance, health and well-being. This is of high interest as the use of antibiotics should be as far as possible minimized in chicken production.

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This paper was presented at the 20th European Symposium on Poultry Nutrition (ESPN) held in Prague on August 24–27 2015.

From the Barnhealth website