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Modulation of intestinal microbiota, morphology and mucin composition by dietary insect meal inclusion in free-range chickens

Biasato, Ilaria, Ferrocino, Ilario, Biasibetti, Elena, Grego, Elena, Dabbou, Sihem, Sereno, Alessandra, Gai, Francesco, Gasco, Laura, Schiavone, Achille, Cocolin, Luca, Capucchio, Maria Teresa
BMC veterinary research 2018 v.14 no.1 pp. 383
Adonis, Bacteroides, Clostridium, Coprococcus, Oscillospira, Ruminococcus, Sutterella, Tenebrio molitor, chickens, digestive tract, females, health effects assessments, hybrids, insects, intestinal microorganisms, iron, large intestine, morphometry, mucins, pH, protein sources, ribosomal RNA, small intestine, staining, veterinary medicine, villi
BACKGROUND: Gut health in poultry depends on the balance between the host, intestinal microbiota, intestinal microscopic features and diet. The effects of insect meal (a promising alternative protein source for poultry feed) on chicken gut morphology have recently been reported, but no data about intestinal microbiota and mucin composition modulation are available. The present study evaluated the effects of dietary Tenebrio molitor (TM) meal inclusion on gut health of free-range chickens by intestinal microbiota, morphology and mucin composition characterization. RESULTS: One hundred forty female medium-growing hybrids were divided into 2 dietary treatments (control feed [C] and 7.5% TM inclusion, with 5 replicate pens/treatment and 14 birds/pen) and slaughtered at 97 days of age (2 birds/pen for a total of 10 chickens/diet). The gut microbiota assessment on cecal content samples by 16S rRNA amplicon based sequencing showed higher alpha (Shannon, P < 0.05) and beta (Adonis and ANOSIM, P < 0.001) diversity in birds fed TM diet than C. In comparison with C group, TM birds displayed significant increase and decrease, respectively, of the relative abundances of Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes phyla, with higher Firmicutes:Bacteroidetes ratios (False Discovery Rate [FDR] < 0.05). The relative abundance of Clostridium, Oscillospira, Ruminococcus, Coprococcus and Sutterella genera was higher in TM chickens than C (FDR < 0.05). On the contrary, TM birds displayed significant decrease of the relative abundance of Bacteroides genus compared to the C group (FDR < 0.05). Gut morphology evaluation by morphometric analysis on small intestine revealed similar villus height, crypt depth and villus height to crypt depth ratio between C and TM birds. Characterization of gut mucin composition by periodic-acid Schiff, Alcian Blue pH 2.5 and high iron diamine staining on small and large intestine showed unaffected mucin staining intensity in TM chickens when compared to C group. CONCLUSIONS: Dietary TM meal inclusion may positively modulate the gut microbiota of the free-range chickens without influencing the intestinal morphology and mucin composition. Since the rapid growth of chickens directly depends on morphological and functional integrity of the digestive tract, the gut health assessment by a post mortem multidisciplinary approach appears to be fundamental.