Growth performance and gastrointestinal responses of broiler chickens fed corn-soybean meal diet without or with exogenous epidermal growth factor upon challenge withEimeria1

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Epidermal growth factor (EGF), a protein known for its mitogenic and anti-apoptotic effects was fed to broiler chickens to evaluate growth performance, gastrointestinal measurements, and apparent retention (AR) of components upon challenge with Eimeria. A total of 216, d old male broiler chicks (Ross 708) were placed in cages (6 birds/cage) and allocated to treatments. The treatments were: 1) control (Lactotobacilli lactis fermentation supernatant without EGF), 2) 80 μg of EGF/kg BW/d, and 3) 160 μg of EGF/kg BW/d. A basal antibiotic-free corn-soybean diet containing TiO2 was used. Birds were offered fresh feed with respective treatments on daily basis and had free access to drinking water for 14 d. On d 5, birds (6 replicates per treatment) were challenged with 1 mL of E. acervulina and E. maxima mixture via oral gavage and the other 6 replicates were given sham. Growth performance was measured in pre- (d 0 to 5) and post- (d 6 to 14) challenge periods. Two birds per cage were necropsied on d 10 for intestinal lesion scores and tissue samples for histomorphology and expression of select intestinal genes. Excreta samples for AR of components and oocyst shedding were taken d 10 to 13 and all birds were necropsied on d 14 for gastrointestinal weight. The EGF linearly (P < 0.05) increased BWG before challenge. There was no EGF and Eimeria interaction (P > 0.05) on growth performance, AR of GE, and intestinal histomorphology; the main effects were such that Eimeria depressed (P < 0.01) BWG, FCR, AR of DM, crude fat, and GE, and villi height to crypt depth ratio. An interaction between EGF and Eimeria (P < 0.05) on indices of gut function was such that EGF improved expression of genes for nutrient transporters and tight junction proteins in Eimeria challenged birds whilst no effect in non-challenged control. In conclusion, Eimeria challenge reduced growth performance and impaired gut function; EGF showed beneficial effects on growth pre-challenge and improved indices of gut function upon Eimeria challenge.

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