Poultry infected with the parasite Eimeria maxima usually develop avian coccidiosis. Now, ARS immunologist Hyun Lillehoj* aims to find dietary supplements that strengthen the poultry immune system.
Lillehoj, at the ARS Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., cooperated on the research with scientists at South Korea’s Gyeongsang National University College of Veterinary Medicine.
The researchers discovered that chickens that consumed ground green tea for 2 weeks prior to parasitic infection produced significantly fewer fecal E. maxima oocysts than the control group. This finding could help reduce the spread of infection in poultry houses.
Working with ARS visiting molecular biologist Sung-Hyen Lee and Imagilin Technology LLC, in Frederick, Md., Lillehoj evaluated the effects of adding commercial probiotics to poultry diets. Probiotics are health-promoting dietary supplements derived from live bacteria or yeasts.
Chickens eating diets supplemented with Pediococcus-based probiotics reduced their oocyte production, increased the production of cytokines essential for a strong immune response, and experienced improved weight gain.
Poultry immunities got a similar boost from a combination of Pediococcus and a yeast-based commercial probiotic product. Chickens that consumed a probiotic combination of lactic acid bacterium and yeasts also showed a significant antibody response to parasites.
Lillehoj, Lee, and other colleagues from South Korea collaborated with scientists at the Rural Development Administration – South Korea’s national agricultural research organisation – to see if other phytonutrients might also be beneficial. They found that plum powder supplements stimulated spleen immune cell production and killed tumour cells. Infected poultry fed with the supplement also gained weight and reduced parasite shedding.
Supplements of safflower, which have been used by traditional Chinese practitioners for thousands of years, were found to be similarly beneficial.