The microbiome of the broiler chicken gastrointestinal tract (GIT) has been extensively studied, and it has been amply demonstrated that it plays an important role in the health of the host, as it has a positive impact on the immune system, the physiology of the GIT, and productivity. Also, the microbiota is involved in reducing and preventing colonization by enteric pathogens through the process of competitive exclusion and the production of bacteriostatic and bactericidal substances. The taxonomic composition of the microbiota is affected by different factors, such as the organ, the age of the animal, diet and the use of antimicrobials.
Different kinds of additives that regulate the microbial community in feed include probiotics (live microorganisms that when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host), prebiotics (ingredients that stimulate increased beneficial microbial activity in the digestive system in order to improve the health of the host) and phytobiotics (primary or secondary components of plants that contain bioactive compounds that exert a positive effect on the growth and health of animals). Phages may potentially provide an integrated solution to modulate the intestinal microbiome of chicken intestines, as they reduce specific pathogenic microbial populations, permitting the proliferation of beneficial microbiota. Studies have shown that the use of cocktails of phages, especially in high concentrations and with short lapses of time between exposure to the bacteria and treatment with phages, optimize the reduction of Salmonella in chickens. Each of these technologies has demonstrable positive effects on the health of the host and the reduction of the pathogen load in controlled assays.
This paper presents a comprehensive summary of the role of the microbiota in the broiler chicken gastrointestinal tract, and discusses the usefulness of different strategies for its modulation to control pathogens, with a particular emphasis on bacteriophages.