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Effects of Eimeria tenella on Cecal Luminal and Mucosal Microbiota in Broiler Chickens

Philip M. Campos, Katarzyna B. Miska, Stanislaw Kahl, Mark C. Jenkins, Jonathan Shao, Monika Proszkowiec-Weglarz
Avian diseases 2022 v.66 no.1 pp. 39-52
Clostridium, Eimeria tenella, Enterococcus, Escherichia coli, Lachnospiraceae, Proteus, amino acids, biosynthesis, body weight changes, cecum, coccidiosis, epithelium, feed conversion, metagenomics, poultry industry, poultry production, prebiotics, probiotics
The intestinal disease coccidiosis, caused by parasitic Eimeria species, severely impacts poultry production, leading to an estimated $14 billion in annual losses worldwide. As the poultry industry moves away from antibiotics as a treatment for diseases, a better understanding of the microbiota is required to develop other solutions such as probiotics, prebiotics, and nutritional supplements. This study aimed to investigate the effects of Eimeria tenella infection on luminal (cecal contents [CeC]) and mucosal (cecal epithelial scrapings [CeS]) microbial populations in 288 Ross 708 broiler chickens at multiple time points postinfection (PI). By use of 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing, it was revealed that microbial diversity differed in infected (IF) chickens in comparison to the control (C) in both CeC and CeS microbiota at the peak of infection (7 days PI), when simultaneously IF birds saw reduced body weight gain and a higher feed conversion ratio. Infection resulted in a significant differential abundance of some bacterial taxa, including increases in potential secondary pathogens Escherichia coli, Enterococcus, Clostridium, and Proteus and a decrease in the short chain fatty acid-producing family Lachnospiraceae. Predicted metagenomic pathways associated with E. coli, such as those responsible for amino acid biosynthesis, were differentially expressed in IF birds. In conclusion, our results show that E. tenella infection disturbs luminal and mucosal microbiota balance in chickens. Moreover, the luminal microbiota seems to be more susceptible to prolonged imbalance due to IF, whereas the mucosal microbiota appeared to be affected only in the short term, demonstrating the importance of researching both the luminal and mucosal microbiota of the cecum.