Postbiotics, the next generation approach to strengthen immunity and gut health for optimal performance in poultry

Commercial poultry production in India is undergoing various changes, as it is faced with many challenges viz. high raw material prices, numerous stress conditions, bacterial diseases and viral outbreaks. Over the years, breeding companies have developed birds designed specifically to overcome these challenges. However, with the current global trends, climate change and increasing commercial poultry population, these challenges are limiting the attainment of the full genetic potential. In order to maintain optimum health and performance of these birds, interventions which could lead to enhanced immunity and gut health, are quite essential to ensure sustainable poultry production.

Nutritional additives can play a key role in enabling birds extract the best out of feedstuffs. These include probiotics, prebiotics, synbiotics and most recently postbiotics. The actions of probiotics are largely dependent on the live organisms. However, its exposureto different gut environment and antibiotic usages leads to inconsistent results. According to The International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) in 2019, postbiotics are mainly products of highly controlled processes outside the birds that comprise of inanimate microorganisms and/or their components that include metabolites that confers a health benefit on the host. This implies that postbiotics are highly stable for feed mixing, pelleting and storage. These are also safe and have least chances of causing toxicity. In terms of function, the metabolites are readily utilized by bird’s biological system, are more consistent with a broader mode of action and can produce more consistent results.

Postbiotic products are produced through a proprietary fermentation technology, inspired by nature, and refined through scientific research. The products are highly stable with long shelf lives and are easily incorporated into feed manufacturing processes including pelleting (95°C), extrusion (even tested for extrusion temp. of 145 °C for 30 min).Research conducted shows that postbiotics work naturally with the biology of the bird to support immune strength and promote digestive health. Studies have shown that when postbiotics are fed to poultry, there is an increase in the sensitivity of phagocytic cells, especially macrophages and natural killer cell, through cytokine release; hence initiating a timely and desired innate immune response or inflammation. This implies that whenever there is an infection or a threat, there is an immediate reaction/ inflammation, and the immune system goes back to rest as soon as the threat is eliminated. This makes the innate immunity more efficient, thereby conserving energy that could have otherwise been used to maintain an active immune system.

In addition, adaptive immune system is important in the sense that it comes in after the first line of defence; is usually specific and can remember the pathogens. It mainly acts in any of the two ways, either through cell mediated immune response or by humoral or antibody production. Postbiotics canthus, help the adaptive immune system to recognize pathogens and produce an immune response faster. This has been demonstrated by the fact that with postbiotics, there is a faster immunity development upon vaccination against viral diseases such as NCD, IBD, IBV etc. Another important aspect of humoral immune response is the secretory IgA (intestinal & respiratory mucosa) which together with first line of defence provides protection to the mucosa both in gut and respiratory system. On cell mediated response, research shows that with postbiotics, there is an increase in the number of T cells produced, which make the pathogen killing more efficient.

Digestive health is important in the sense that this is the largest site of pathogen entry into birds, and it influences the nutrient efficiency and performance of birds. Research on postbiotics have demonstrated a positive influence on the villi density and lengths, thereby, increasing the surface area for absorption. Tight junctions hold the epithelial cells together and play a critical role in the communication between the gut lumen and blood stream. Under normal circumstances, the digested nutrients cross the epithelial barrier through these cells. However, during any stressful conditions such as heat stress, these tight junctions, due to their proteinous nature undergo oxidative stress, resulting in relaxed junctions and allowing substances to pass through into the blood stream without control, including the undesired lipopolysaccharides (LPS), resulting from dead gram negative bacteria in the gut, which affects overall health of birds and the efficiency of nutrient utilization. The other second component of gut health is the microbiome. Research has also shown that postbiotics increases beneficial bacteria especially Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which utilize the fibre in the lower gut to produce volatile fatty acids including butyrate that provide nourishment to the gut epithelial cells and also act as an antimicrobial in the gut. Ultimately, this results in more beneficial bacteria and less pathogenic bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. coli. harbouring the gut.

A combination of the above modes of action gets translated into production performance in all classes of poultry that include breeders, layers, and broilers. In breeders, because of the healthy flocks and enhanced gut health, we get extra eggs per hen housed, along with higher hatchability and good quality chicks. In layers, there is an improvement in egg production, better FCR and strong eggshells. In broilers, we see better feed efficiency and extra weight at slaughter. Because of the enhanced health, reduction in mortality too has been observed. When tested under Indian conditions and against probiotics, prebiotics and yeast based immuno-modulator, postbiotics have proved its superiority. The research findings on performance parameters viz. body weight, FCR, livability, EPEF & Ab titer, have depicted that postbiotics could be highly effective and facilitate the better nutrient utilization than prebiotics, probiotics, and immuno-modulators.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are based on author’s knowledge gathered from references, free access journals, different articles published in internet media on postbiotics.

References can be made available upon request.

by Dr. Umesh Singh, Provimi Animal Nutrition India Pvt Ltd.