Effect ofClostridium perfringensinfection and antibiotic administration on microbiota in the small intestine of broiler chickens

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The etiological agent of necrotic enteritis (NE) is Clostridium perfringens (CP), which is an economically significant problem for broiler chicken producers worldwide. Traditional use of in-feed antibiotic growth promoters to control NE disease have resulted in the emergence of antibiotic resistance in CP strains. Identification of probiotic bacteria strains as an alternative to antibiotics for the control of intestinal CP colonization is crucial. Two experiments were conducted to determine changes in intestinal bacterial assemblages in response to CP infection and in-feed bacitracin methylene disalicylate (BMD) in broiler chickens. In each experiment conducted in battery-cage or floor-pen housing, chicks were randomly assigned to the following treatment groups: 1) BMD-supplemented diet with no CP challenge (CM), 2) BMD-free control diet with no CP challenge (CX), 3) BMD-supplemented diet with CP challenge (PCM), or 4) BMD-free control diet with CP challenge (PCX). The establishment of CP infection was confirmed, with the treatment groups exposed to CP having a 1.5- to 2-fold higher CP levels (P < 0.05) compared to the non-exposed groups. Next-generation sequencing of PCR amplified 16S rRNA genes, was used to perform intestinal bacterial diversity analyses pre-challenge, and at 1, 7, and 21 d post-challenge. The results indicated that the intestinal bacterial assemblage was dominated by members of the phylum Firmicutes in all treatments before and after CP challenge, especially the Lactobacillaceae and Clostridiales families. In addition, we observed post-challenge emergence of members of the Enterobacteriaceae and Streptococcaceae in the non-medicated PCX treatment, and emergence of the Enterococcaceae in the medicated PCM treatment. This study highlights the bacterial interactions that could be important in suppressing or eliminating CP infection within the chicken intestine. Future studies should explore the potential to use commensal strains of unknown Clostridiales, Lactobacillaceae, Enterobacteriaceae, Streptococcaceae, and Enterococcaceae in effective probiotic formulations for the control of CP and NE disease.

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