Healthy intestinal bacteria already in chicken eggs
Many scientists have believed that birds acquire the
intestinal bacteria that are a necessary for good health from their environment.
However, a University of Georgia study finds that chickens are born with those
According to lead author Adriana Pedroso, the finding could have important
implications for the poultry industry as well as for food
"Understanding the microbial ecology of the developing chicken is the
first step toward producing healthy birds without antibiotics," said Pedroso, a
post-doctoral researcher in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine.
Pedroso and her team incubated over 300 eggs and dipped them into a light
bleach solution before extracting the embryos using sterile tools. DNA analysis
revealed a diverse community of bacteria within the intestines of the developing
embryos. The team hypothesize that the bacteria penetrate the surface of the
shell to the egg white, which is then ingested by the developing embryo.
Reduce risk of food borne illness
Study co-author John Maurer, professor of avian medicine, said the findings
could lead to better methods for promoting growth of poultry and for reducing
the risk of food borne illness. He explained that as the poultry industry has
moved away from the use of growth promoting antibiotics, it increasingly relies
on administering probiotics - beneficial intestinal bacteria - to newly hatched
chicks. Establishing a community of healthy bacteria in the birds is thought to
make it more difficult for pathogenic bacteria to establish themselves, but
studies on the effectiveness of probiotics have shown mixed results. He added
that it appears now that the timing of probiotic administration is
"Currently, most probiotics are administered after the chicks have
hatched," Maurer said. "But our study suggests we might need to administer
probiotics in ovo (in the egg) to get better results."
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