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Animal Science

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Poultry Science





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Compounds in microalgae-derived feed ingredients in poultry diets may improve intestinal physiology and immunity to protect against damage induced by physiological and pathogen challenges, but mechanisms are examined sparingly. The study objective was to evaluate changes to intestinal morphology, permeability, and systemic immunity in broilers fed a proprietary microalgae ingredient during 2 separate challenge studies. In study 1, two replicate 28 d battery cage trials used 200 Ross 308 broilers each (n = 400) fed a control diet ± 0.175% algae ingredient. Half of the birds were subjected to a 12 h feed restriction challenge and fluorescein isothiocyanate dextran (FITC-D) intestinal permeability assay on d 28. Study 2 used 800 broilers randomly assigned to the same dietary treatments and housed in floor pens for 42 d. At d 14, intestine and spleen samples were collected from 10 birds/ diet. Half of the remainder was orally inoculated with 10X Coccivac-B52 vaccine in a 2 × 2 factorial treatment design (diet and Eimeria inoculation). The FITC-D assay was conducted at 1, 3, 7, and 14 d post-inoculation (pi) while intestinal and spleen samples were collected at 3, 7, 14, and 28 dpi for histomorphology and flow cytometric immune cell assessment. Study 1 validated intestinal leakage via FITC-D absorbance induced by feed restriction but showed no algae-associated protective effects. In study 2, algae preserved intestinal integrity during coccidiosis (P = 0.04) and simultaneously protected jejunal villus height as early as 7dpi (P < 0.0001), whereas intestinal damage resolution in control birds did not occur until 14 dpi. Algae inclusion increased splenic T cells in unchallenged broilers at d 14 by 29.6% vs. control (P < 0.0001), specifically γδ T cell populations, without impacting performance (P < 0.03). During Eimeria challenge, splenic T cells in algae-fed birds did not show evidence of recruitment to peripheral tissues, while control birds showed a 16.7% reduction compared to their uninoculated counterparts from 3 to 7 dpi (P < 0.0001). This evidence suggests the algae ingredient altered the immune response in a manner that reduced recruitment from secondary lymphoid organs in addition to protecting intestinal physiology.


This article is published as Fries-Craft, K., M. M. Meyer, and E. A. Bobeck. "Algae-based feed ingredient protects intestinal health during Eimeria challenge and alters systemic immune responses with differential outcomes observed during acute feed restriction." Poultry Science 100, no. 9 (2021): 101369. doi:10.1016/j.psj.2021.101369.

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