DietaryLactobacillus acidophiluspositively influences growth performance, gut morphology, and gut microbiology in rurally reared chickens

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In a market undergoing constant evolution, the production of chicken meat that consumers would perceive as “natural” and “animal friendly” is crucial. The use of probiotics in rurally reared chickens could represent a major opportunity to achieve mutual benefit for both the industry and consumers. A total of 264 male Kabir chicks were randomly distributed to one of 2 dietary treatments: the L group received a commercial feed supplemented with 2.0 g/100 kg of Lactobacillus acidophilus D2/CSL, while the C group received the same basal diet without the additive. To assess the effects of probiotic supplementation in the chickens’ diet, productive performance was evaluated at d 21 and 42, whereas microbiological analyses of the intestinal content and intestinal histology and morphometry were performed at the end of the trial (d 42). At d 21 and 42, L birds showed better (P < 0.001) performance in terms of body weight, average daily gain, and feed conversion ratio. Enterococci, staphylococci, and Escherichia coli populations were not influenced by dietary treatment. On the contrary, Lactobacillus population increased (P = 0.032) in the L group. Furthermore, a tendency (P = 0.069) was observed for the coliforms to be influenced by diet, with lower values in the L group in comparison to the C group. Histological techniques revealed that the number of goblet cell containing neutral mucins was lower in the C group. Morphometric evaluations demonstrated that the probiotic supplementation increased the height of the mucosal layer by improving (P = 0.040) villus height, while crypt depth was unaffected. In conclusion, the results obtained in this study demonstrate that it is possible to use Lactobacillus acidophilus D2/CSL (CECT 4529) in rurally reared chicken breeds with positive effects on performance and gut health.

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