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Understanding tomorrow the effects of microbiota on poultry performance

The aim of the METACHICK consortium is to compile a catalogue of genes of the intestinal microbiota of the avian species Gallus gallus in order to better understand its effects on poultry health, metabolism, immunity or behaviour. The TECHNA Group is currently engaged in this consortium, alongside such partners as the INRA (the French National Institute for Agricultural Research) and ITAVI (the French technical institute for poultry). The METACHICK project will offer new perspectives for the breeding, feeding and therapeutic treatment of broilers.

Microbiota closely related to poultry health

microbiotia chicken layer turkeyDid you know that the intestinal microbiota influences the behaviour and performance of chickens, laying hens and turkeys? Curently, much research has highlighted the multiple roles of the intestinal microbiota on its host. The bacterial populations, dynamic and complex, live in equilibrium in the digestive tract. They influence the nutrition, metabolism, immunity or behaviour of the animal. A qualitative and functional alteration of the microbiota is likely to disrupt the overall functioning of the whole and to cause the appearance of pathogenes. A well-known example in humans is the microbiota alteration of obese people or those with a metabolic syndrome. The reason lies in the fact that analyses of the faecal microbiota show a decrease in Bacteroidetes in favour of an increase in Firmicutes.

In order to correlate the bacterial diversity with the numerous factors of variation (genetic, environment, etc. ), it is necessary to characterize the microbial communities.

Scientific and technical advances in DNA sequencing and analysis have already been made to decipher all human intestinal microbial genomes (metagenomes). In 2009, the MetaHIT (Meta-genomics of the Human Intestinal Tract) consortium published a catalogue of 3.3 million intestinal bacterial genes. Two years later, it was followed by the HMP (Human Microbiome Project) consortium with a catalogue of 5 million genes. Today, this catalogue contains 9.9 million genes. The results of these works showed that there was a common bacterial core between people but that other species differed from one individual to another with a very high individual variability. The finer description of the microbial ecosystem also revealed the possibility to divide individuals into three different groups, called enterotype, depending on the nature of the bacterial species which predominate in the gut. Probably, each enterotye has its own functional specificities. Some digestive diseases could then be linked to one enterotype rather than another.

After the pig and the mouse, a genetic catalogue of poultry in perspective

In the animals, two catalogues are available, that of the mouse (2.6 million genes) and that of the pig (7.7 million genes). The catalogue of the bacterial genome of poultry doesn’t yet exist. However, this sector weighs heavily at the global level as the production of meat and eggs is constantly increasing.

Knowledge of the broiler's intestinal microbiota is therefore of major interest. This in-depth study offers a range of concrete perspectives to improve the health, well-being, performance of poultry (among other laying hens, broilers and turkeys). It also provides valuable data for drug administration, in the context of increasing regulation of antibiotic use.

That’s why TECHNA is involved in the METACHICK consortium to work on the construction of a reference catalogue for the caecal metagenome of Gallus gallus. This consortium began in 2015. It brings together several French partners including 6 INRA units, ITAVI and SYSAAF (French Poultry and Aquaculture Breeders Association), 11 industrialists and GENOSCOPE. A total of 600 samples were collected by ITAVI (the French technical institute for poultry) in collaboration with the various partners. Samples were taken from laying hens, broilers and some experimental lines of INRA.

Poultry microbiota: in search of the ideal bacterial profile?

The gene catalogue of the broiler gut microbiota will provide access to previously inaccessible information. It will facilitate the detection and analysis of the microbiota during further research. in order to better understand the overall functioning of the gut microbial population of poultry. This would also allow us to know more deeply the microbiota diversity and the balance between the bacterial groups that compose it.

Among the main objectives of this project will be the attempt to identify a common core of bacterial species between poultry and to discern a favourable gut microbiota.

Another perspective of work consists in better understanding the bacterial functions associated with a given bacterial profile, in connection with the physiological variations of the host. Bacteria have many positive functions (for example, fermentation of sugar and proteins) or negatives (for example, bile salts hydrolysis) for their host. The possibility of modulating them could have a direct impact on broiler growth efficiency and their health.

Such discoveries will reveal new levers of action for developing better dietary strategies, better understanding the effect of probiotics, prebiotics or enzymes. Added to this is the development of therapeutic treatments or, the possibility of orienting the genetic selection and breeding methods. The ultimate objective is to improve robustness, digestive efficiency and health of poultry.

If you would like more information about our studies, don’t hesitate to contact our experts!

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