Organic Acids as Alternatives for Antibiotic Growth Promoters Alter the Intestinal Structure and Microbiota and Improve the Growth Performance in Broilers

Front. Microbiol. 11:618144

Open Access
Qiu K., Zhang H-j., Wu S-g., Han Y-m., Wu Y-y., Qi G-h. and Wang J.

by Dai D. on 13/01/2021
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Frontiers in Microbiology


The present study aimed to investigate the effects of organic acids (OA) as alternatives for antibiotic growth promoters (AGP) on growth performance, intestinal structure, as well as intestinal microbial composition and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) profiles in broilers. A total of 336 newly hatched male Arbor Acres broiler chicks were randomly allocated into 3 dietary treatments including the basal diet [negative control (NC)], the basal diet supplemented with 5 mg/kg flavomycin, and the basal diet supplemented with OA feed additives. Each treatment had eight replicates with 14 birds each. The results showed that AGP and OA promoted growth during day 22–42 compared with the NC group (P < 0.05). OA significantly increased the jejunal goblet cell density and ileal villus height on day 42 compared with the NC group (P < 0.05). Meanwhile, OA up-regulated the mRNA expression of jejunal barrier genes (Claudin-3 and ZO-1) relative to the NC group (P < 0.05). Significant changes of microbiota induced by the OA were also found on day 42 (P < 0.05). Several SCFAs-producing bacteria like Ruminococcaceae, Christensenellaceae, and Peptococcaceae affiliated to the order Clostridiales were identified as biomarkers of the OA group. Higher concentrations of SCFAs including formic acid and butyric acid were observed in the cecum of OA group (P < 0.05). Simultaneously, the abundance of family Ruminococcaceae showed highly positive correlations with the body weight and mRNA level of ZO-1 on day 42 (P < 0.05). However, AGP supplementation had the higher mRNA expression of Claudin-2, lower goblet cell density of jejunum, and decreased Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio, suggesting that AGP might have a negative impact on intestinal immune and microbiota homeostasis. In conclusion, the OA improved growth performance, intestinal morphology and barrier function in broilers, which might be attributed to the changes of intestinal microbiota, particularly the enrichment of SCFAs-producing bacteria, providing a more homeostatic and healthy intestinal microecology.