The gastrointestinal tract is the most exposed surface in the body and many diseases are largely related to the poultry gut health status of the chicken (broiler). It is an important organ system as poor gut health results in poor nutrient assimilation. Some bacteria play an important role in helping broilers digest feed. Feed constituents affect the viscosity of the gastric content which helps in the development of small intestine micro-biota. Any significant fluctuation in number or type of commensal leads to diarrhea which may cause severe damage to the intestine ultimately leading to poor performance and diseased birds. Dysbiosis that outnumbers good bacteria for which bad bacteria are then able exert their undesirable effects on the gut lining. Thus, to maintain good health and welfare farmers should focus on the integrity of the intestinal system.
Many causes lead to the loss of intestinal integrity such as:
- Immuno-suppression: This can be caused due to viral diseases, vaccination or some disease challenges.
- Antimicrobial activity: The use of antimicrobial growth promoters affect on bacteria can affect the natural micro flora of the intestine.
- Environmental factors: Many clostridial spores or coccidia can persist despite harsh environmental conditions may gain infectivity later under favourable conditions.
- Feed factors: Correct formulation of the diets plays critical role. Some of the ingredients such as enzyme incorrectly mixed or applied can have devastating consequences to intestinal integrity.
- Water: Adequate supply of clean potable water is a norm. Any deviation in water quality has a direct effect on gut.
Disturbance in the intestinal integrity may affect health status and overall performance of birds in poultry production. Strategies such as prevention programs towards infectious disease and using alternatives to antibiotic are advisable replacing the existing chemical antibiotic to maintain intestinal homeostasis.