SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

vol.88 número2In vitro antifungal activity of four chemotypes of Lippia alba (Verbenaceae) essential oils against Alternaria solani (Pleosporeaceae) isolatesDevelopment of Dichelops melacanthus and its egg parasitoid Telenomus podisi reared on Bt-soybean MON 87701 x MON 89788 and its near conventional isoline under different temperatures índice de autoresíndice de assuntospesquisa de artigos
Home Pagelista alfabética de periódicos  

Serviços Personalizados




Links relacionados


Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências

versão impressa ISSN 0001-3765versão On-line ISSN 1678-2690

An. Acad. Bras. Ciênc. vol.88 no.2 Rio de Janeiro abr./jun. 2016  Epub 31-Maio-2016 

Agrarian Sciences

Probiotic level effects on growth performance, carcass traits, blood parameters, cecal microbiota, and immune response of broilers





1Department of Animal Science, Rasht Branch, Islamic Azad University, Pole-Taleshan Street, 41335-3516 Rasht, Iran

2Department of Veterinary Science, Rasht Branch, Islamic Azad University, Pole-Taleshan Street, 41335-3516 Rasht, Iran

3Department of Animal Production, University of Córdoba, Ctra. Madrid-Cádiz, Km 396, 14071 Córdoba, Spain


Probiotic effects on growth performance, carcass traits, blood parameters, cecal microbiota, and immune response of broilers were studied. Two hundred one-day-old male chickens were allocated to one of five treatments (four replicates of 10 birds per treatment): control, and the same control diet supplemented with 0.005%, 0.01%, 0.015% and 0.02% probiotics. Probiotics in feed at 0.01% or higher levels of supplementation improved body weight gain (+12%) and feed conversion rate (-5%) compared with the control. There were no effects on carcass traits, but the relative weights of drumsticks and wings showed increasing and decreasing linear responses, respectively, to probiotic supplementation level. Blood plasma glucose and albumin contents linearly increased (from 167.1 to 200.5 mg dl-1, and from 1.70 to 3.25 g dl-1) with increasing probiotic supplementation. Triglycerides and cholesterol contents were lower in probiotic supplemented treatments (average contents 71.3 and 125.3 mg dl-1 vs. 92.6 and 149.9 mg dl-1 in the control). Probiotics decreased cecal Escherichia coli counts, but had no effects on immunity related organs or immune response. The linear trends, either positive or negative, observed in many of the parameters studied, suggest that more studies are needed to establish the optimal concentration of probiotics in broiler feed.

Key words: digestion; immunity; poultry; probiotics; production


Os efeitos probióticos no desempenho produtivo, características de carcaça, parâmetros sanguíneos, microbiota cecal, e resposta imune de frangos de corte foram estudados. Duzentos animais, machos, de um dia de idade, foram alocados para um dos cinco tratamentos (quatro repetições de 10 aves por tratamento): controle, e mesma dieta controle suplementada com probióticos a 0,005%, 0,01%, 0,015% e 0,02%. A suplementação alimentar com probióticos a partir de 0,01% resultou no ganho de peso corporal (+ 12%) e taxa de conversão de ração (-5%) em comparação com o grupo controle. O nível de suplementação de probióticos não apresentou qualquer efeito sobre as características de carcaça, apesar da alteração de pesos relativos de coxas e asas, com aumento e redução linear, respectivamente. Os níveis de glicose plasmática e conteúdo de albumina aumentaram linearmente no sangue (167,1-200,5 mg.dl-1 e 1,70-3,25 g.dl-1, respectivamente) conforme suplementação de probiótico. Níveis de triglicérides e de colesterol foram mais baixos nos tratamentos com probiótico (valores médios de 71,3 e 125,3 mg.dl-1 vs. 92,6 e 149,9 mg.dl-1 no grupo controle). A suplementação com probióticos resultou na diminuição da contagem de Escherichia coli cecais, mas não apresentou efeitos em órgãos relaciona dos com a imunidade ou ainda com resposta imune. As tendências lineares, positivas ou negativas, observadas em muitos dos parâmetros estudados, sugerem que mais estudos são necessários para estabelecer a concentração ideal de probióticos na alimentação de frangos de corte.

Palavras-Chave: digestão; imunidade; aves; probióticos; produção


Enteric diseases are an important burden to the poultry industry because of lost productivity, in creased mortality, and the associated contaminati on of poultry products for human consumption (Patterson and Burkholder 2003). As a result, the banning of subtherapeutic antibiotic usage in several countries, due to consumers' concerns regarding food safety and antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans, has brought about a challenge for the productive efficiency of the poultry industry. Therefore, several alternatives to growth-promoting antimicrobials have been investigated in recent years (Huyghebaert et al. 2011). Those strategies have focused on preventing the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria and modulating beneficial gut microflora so that the health, immune status and performance are improved (Adil and Magray 2012).

Probiotics are single or mixed cultures of live microorganisms, which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host (FAO/WHO 2001). Observed effects after probiotic supplementation are related to a more beneficial microbial population in the gut due to pathogen inhibition. Mechanisms of pathogen inhibition may include stimulation of the immune system, competition for available nutrients, and direct antimicrobial effects by secretion of inhibitory substances or competition for adhesion receptors to intestinal epithelium (Yang et al. 2009, Lee et al. 2010).

Several papers have shown that probiotics in broiler diets improve the growth performance compared with non-supplemented diets, being as effectives as antibiotic growth promoters (Kalavathy et al. 2003, Mountzouris et al. 2010, Shim et al. 2010). Some authors have investigated the effects of adding a single level of probiotics in broiler diet (Khosravi et al. 2010, Mountzouris et al. 2007, Zakeri and Kashefi 2011), while others have tested two (Anjum et al. 2005, Mehr et al. 2007, Nayebpor et al. 2007, Panda et al. 2006) or three or more levels of probiotic supplementation (Apata 2008, Li et al. 2008, Mountzouris et al. 2010, Wang and Gu 2010). However, the results obtained are contradictory and highlight the importance of evaluating probiotic administration level for maximizing efficacy. Hence, the aim of the present work was to investigate the effects of increasing levels of probiotic supplementation on growth performance, carcass traits, blood plasma constituents, cecal microbiota and immu ne response of broiler chickens.


Animals, Housing, Diets and Treatments

Use and care of birds and procedures employed on this study were approved by the Islamic Azad University Ethics Committee. Before starting the trial, the research facility was thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Two hundred one-day-old male chickens of the Ross 308 strain (Aviagen, Newbridge, UK), purchased from a commercial hatchery, were used. The broiler chicks were placed in 1.5 × 1.0 m cages, in which the floor was covered with shredded paper. Each cage was equipped with a pan feeder and a manual drinker. The research facility was an open sided poultry barn having thermostatically controlled curtains and equipped with thermostatically controlled gasoline rocket heaters, overhead sprinklers, wall-mounted fans on both ends of the barn, and fluorescent tubes in ceiling fixtures. Ambient temperature was set at 32 °C at placement and then decreased gradually until it reached 24 °C from week 3 onwards. Lighting was constant at day 1. From day 2 to the finish of the study, light regime was 21L:3D. Feed (mash form) and water were provided ad libitum throughout the whole trial.

The experiment lasted 42 days. The feeding programme was a commercial one and consisted of a starter diet until the chicks were 14 days old, followed by a grower diet up to 28 days of age, and then a finisher diet until the end of the experiment. All feeds were based on maize and soybean meal and did not contain any antibiotic feed additives (Table I). Chicks were assigned into one of the following treatments: control (basal diet without added probiotics), and the same basal diet supplemented with 0.005%, 0.01%, 0.015% and 0.02% of Protexin probiotics (P1, P2, P3 and P4 treatments, respectively). Protexin Compounder (Probiotics International Ltd, Somerset, UK) was obtained from a local provider. It is a multi-strain commercial preparation in powder form (2 x 109 CFU/g) that consists of Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacil lus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lacto bacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Streptococcus thermophilus, Enterococcus faecium, Aspergillus oryzae and Candida pintolopesii. The manufacturer's recommended levels of Protexin supplementation are 0.01% (0.10 g/kg feed) until four weeks of age and 0.005% (0.05 g/kg feed) thereafter. Each treatment had four replicates, thus there was a total of 20 groups of 10 birds.

Table I - Experimental diets fed to broiler chickens. 

Starter 1-14 d Grower 15-28 d Finisher 29-42 d
Ingredients, %
Maize 55.60 61.56 64.31
Soybean meal 44 37.00 30.00 27.00
Soybean oil 1.20 2.30 3.60
Dicalcium phosphate 1.70 1.70 1.50
Calcium carbonate 1.50 1.40 1.20
Vitamin and mineral mixture1 2.00 2.00 2.00
DL-methionine 0.20 0.26 0.17
Salt 0.23 0.33 0.20
Sodium bicarbonate 0.17 0.17 0.15
L-lysine HCL 0.15 0.15 0.05
Choline chloride 0.10 0.10 0.10
L-treonine 0.03 0.03 0.04
Enzymes2 0.05 0.05 0.03
Phytase3 0.01 0.01 0.05
Calculated analysis4
Metabolizable energy, MJ kg-1 11.8 12.3 12.9
Crude protein, % 21.3 18.7 17.5
Lysine, % 1.26 1.09 0.93
Methionine + Cysteine, % 0.93 0.80 0.75
Treonine, % 0.83 0.72 0.69
Calcium, % 1.06 1.01 0.90
Phosphorus, % 0.71 0.68 0.63

1 Supplied per kilogram of feed - Vitamin A: 12500 IU; vitamin D3: 1250 IU; vitamin E: 18 IU; vitamin K3: 3.7 mg; thiamine: 1.8 mg; riboflavin: 6.6 mg; calcium pantothenate: 10 mg; niacin: 37.5 mg; pyridoxine: 32.5 mg; vitamin B12: 2.5 mg; Mn: 50 mg; Zn: 37.5 mg; Fe: 25 mg; Cu: 7.5 mg. 2 Yiduozyme 9680. GuangDong, VTR Bio-Tech Co. Ltd., China. 3 Phyzyme XP 10000 TPT. Danisco Animal Nutrition, Marlborough, UK. 4 According to National Research Council (1994).

Growth Performance and Carcass Measurements

Body weight (BW) of the chicks and feed consumption were weekly recorded by replicate. Following, body weight gain (BWG, g/period), feed intake (FI, g/period), and feed conversion ratio (FCR, feed to gain g/g) were determined within each treatment. At the age of 42 days, after 4 h of fasting for complete evacuation of the gut, four chickens per treatment (one from each replicate) that had weights closest to the mean weight for the cage were selected and euthanized by cervical dislocation to determine carcass traits. Birds were fully plucked by dry plucking method and the feet, head, and wingtips were removed. Broilers were eviscerated before determining the carcass weight. Weights of the breast, drumsticks, wings, abdominal fat, and organs were recorded.

Microbial Enumeration

At 42 days of age, four chickens per treatment (one from each replicate) were selected as above, and euthanized. From each euthanized bird, the caeca were quickly dissected and their contents were collected in sterilized sampling tubes. From those contents, 10-fold serial dilutions of 1 g of sample were serially made in phosphate buffer solution (10−1 - 10−6). Subsequently, 100 μl were removed from 10−4, 10−5, and 10−6 dilutions and poured onto Petri dishes containing the culture media. Lactobacilli were cultured in De Man, Rogosa and Sharpe agar and incubated at 37 °C in anaerobic conditions for 72 h. Total aerobes, Escherichia coli and Enterococci were cultured in nutrient agar, eosin methylene blue agar and Slanetz-Bartley agar, respectively, and incubated at 37 °C under aerobic conditions for 48 h. Bacterial colony forming units (CFU) in the Petri dishes were counted using a colony counter. The counts were reported as log10 CFU per one g of sample.

Blood Sampling and Analysis and Immune Response Study

For measuring blood plasma metabolites, enzymes and minerals at 42 days of age, four chickens per treatment (one from each replicate) were selected as above to collect 5 ml of blood from their wing veins into EDTA tubes. After centrifuging blood samples (3000 x g, for 20 min at room temperature), plasma was harvested and stored in Eppendorf tubes at -20º C until assayed. Biochemical analysis was according to standard protocols using commercial laboratory kits (Pars Azmoon Co., Tehran, Iran). Parameters measured were glucose, total protein, albumin, uric acid, triglycerides, cholesterol (total, HDL, LDL and VLDL), alkaline phosphatase, calcium and phosphorus.

Production of antibodies in response to different antigens was assessed during the experiment. The birds were vaccinated against infectious bronchitis disease (1st and 9th day of age), Newcastle disease (1st, 14th and 20th day of age), influenza disease (1st day of age) and Gumboro disease (14th and 23rd day of age). All vaccines were provided by Razi Co. (Tehran, Iran). Additionally, one bird per replicate was injected under the breast skin with 0.5 ml of a 10% suspension in phosphate buffered saline of sheep red blood cells (SRBC) at the 15th and 29th day of age. To determine the systemic antibody response, blood samples were collected from one chick per replicate via the wing vein at the 21st and 27th day of age (Newcastle disease and influenza disease), and at the 22nd and 36th day of age (SRBC). Blood samples were processed and analyzed as described by Pourhossein et al. (2014). To determine the antibody response to Newcastle disease and influenza disease a hemagglutination inhibition assay was used. Total immunoglobulin (Ig) and immunoglobulin G (IgG) titers to SRBC were also determined by hemagglutination assay; then, immunoglobulin M (IgM) titers to SRBC were calculated as total Ig minus IgG titers. The hemagglutination inhibition titer was expressed as the log2 of the last dilution of serum that completely inhibited haemagglutination activity.

Statistical Analyses

The GLM procedure of SAS 9.1 (SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC) was used in the statistical analyses. The statistical design was: Yij = μ + Ti + eij; where Yij is the observation, μ is the overall mean, Ti is the fixed effect of the treatment, (i = 5), and eij is the residual error. Tukey's test was used to compare least squares means. The responses to probiotic sup plementation were investigated through preplanned contrasts, both orthogonal (control vs. probiotic supplemented diets) and polynomial (linear and quadratic effects of supplementation levels). Statistical significance was declared at P<0.05.


The effects of diet supplementation with increasing levels of probiotics on growth performance are presented in Table II. All performance traits were improved by probiotic supplementation. However, compared with the control, the worst results in BWG and FCR were observed at the lowest level of supplementation. Both BWG and FCR showed a linear response (P<0.001), either positive (BWG) or negative (FCR), to increasing probiotic supplementation, while the response of FI was mostly quadratic (P<0.01). The BWG response to probiotic supplementation level was also quadratic (P<0.05), the highest value being observed in the P2 treatment. Khosravi et al. (2010) did not find improvements in BWG and FCR of broilers fed Protexin at the recommended level, compared with those fed the control diet. However, in agreement with our results, Anjum et al. (2005) and Mehr et al. (2007) found that diet supplementation with Protexin at two levels (recommended or 10 and 20% over recommendations, respectively) improved BWG and FCR in broilers compared with the control treatment, but both authors observed that the improvements were clearer at the highest level of supplementation. The fact that Protexin supplementation above recommendation levels seems to improve growth performance might be due to a limited effect on nutrient and energy cost for both the growth and proliferation of live microbes in the gut, and the development of an immune response by the host, or to a more profound effect of the supplied microbes on gut health and function (Mountzouris et al. 2010). Moreover, despite the significant linear trends observed in BWG and FCR in the present work, no significant differences (P>0.05) were found between P2, P3 and P4 treatments, which suggests that the average manufacturer's recommended level was appropriate to improve the productive results.

Table II - Body weight gain (BWG), feed intake (FI), feed conversion rate (FCR), carcass traits and organ weights of 6-week old broilers fed diets containing either no probiotics (control) or 0.005%, 0.01%, 0.015% and 0.02% of probiotics (P1, P2, P3 and P4, respectively). Carcass and organ measures were obtained from four birds per treatment. 

Treatments Probability
Control P1 P2 P3 P4 SEM Control vs probiotics Linear Quadratic
BWG, g period-1 64.2b 65.7b 72.5a 71.4a 71.9a 0.90 <0.001 <0.001 <0.05
FI, g period-1 118.2b 120.8ab 128.1a 125.3ab 121.6ab 1.15 <0.05 0.10 <0.01
FCR, g g-1 1.84a 1.84a 1.77ab 1.76ab 1.69b 0.016 <0.05 <0.001 0.47
Body weight (BW), g 2794bc 2692c 3020ab 2968ab 3040a 45.0 0.15 <0.01 0.91
Carcass weight (CW), g 1699 1577 1761 1824 1836 39.4 0.59 0.06 0.65
Breast, % CW 43.9 42.0 44.1 39.7 41.4 0.55 0.09 0.05 0.85
Drumsticks, % CW 37.1 35.3 36.5 41.2 40.5 0.77 0.42 <0.05 0.30
Wings, % CW 8.69ab 10.4a 9.19ab 7.57b 7.87b 0.324 0.91 <0.05 0.15
Abdominal fat, % CW 2.22a 1.25ab 1.31ab 1.01b 1.75ab 0.136 0.24 0.77 0.87
Organ weights, % BW
Left caecum 0.192b 0.290a 0.259ab 0.252ab 0.262ab 0.010 <0.01 0.08 <0.05
Liver and bile 2.59 2.64 2.32 2.69 2.73 0.068 0.97 0.48 0.25
Spleen 0.113 0.114 0.100 0.125 0.097 0.033 0.69 0.50 0.63
Thymus 0.237b 0.509a 0.334ab 0.276ab 0.261ab 0.004 0.13 0.34 0.06
Bursa of Fabricious 0.096 0.065 0.110 0.086 0.085 0.007 0.57 0.97 0.86

SEM: standard error of the mean. abc In a row, least squares means with a different superscript differ significantly (P<0.05) by Tukey's test. Probability of the probiotic supplementation effect. ‡ Probability of the linear and quadratic responses to the increasing levels of probiotics in the diet.

Several papers have reported contradictory effects on growth performance when comparing different levels of probiotic supplementation (Apata 2008, Li et al. 2008, Nayebpor et al. 2007, Panda et al. 2006, Wang and Gu 2010). Mountzouris et al. (2010) pointed out that no consistent conclusions can be drawn regarding the effect of increasing probiotic administration level on growth performance due to the contradictory results found in the literature and suggested the occurrence of an optimal strain-dependent concentration of each of the probiotics tested. On the other hand, it has been suggested that efficacy for most probiotics in animals could be achieved with a daily intake of 1 x 107 to 1 x 109 microorganisms (Mountzouris et al. 2010, Shim et al. 2010). In the present work, according to the manufacturer´s specifications, the calculated average daily intake of microorganisms was 1 x 106 and 2 to 4 x 107 in the P1 treatment and the P2, P3 and P4 treatments, respectively, which could explain why the P1 treatment did not improve the performance traits compared with the control treatment. On the other hand, most of the above-mentioned works and the present one were carried out with chickens raised in cages or do not specify the rearing system. The rearing system (floor vs. cage) may affect the observed productive results (Santos et al. 2008). Furthermore, the effects of broiler feed supplementation with alternatives to growth-promoting antimicrobials, such as probiotics, may depend on the rearing system due to differences in the hygienic conditions (Pirgozliev et al. 2014). Thus, rearing conditions should be taken into account for a more complete interpretation of the experimental data from research on probiotic supplementation effects.

Table II shows final BW, carcass traits and organ weights. BW was higher (P<0.05) in the P4 treatment and showed a positive linear response (P<0.05) to the increasing levels of probiotics. Except for wings and abdominal fat, no differences (P>0.05) were found in carcass traits among treatments. Nevertheless, carcass weight showed a positive linear trend (P=0.06) with increasing probiotic supplementation. Anjum et al. (2005) and Awad et al. (2009) did not find differences in BW and carcass percentage between a control and a probiotic supplemented treatment. However, Mehr et al. (2007) observed higher body and carcass weights and breast percentage with higher level of probiotic supplementation compared with a lower level and the control treatment. Abdominal fat expressed as percentage of carcass weight was higher (P<0.05) in the control treatment and did not show linear or quadratic trends (P>0.05). Some authors have observed that probiotic supplemented diets reduce abdominal fat weight in broilers compared with the controls (Anjum et al. 2005, Mehr et al. 2007), and others have reported a simultaneous decrease of blood triglyceride content (Kalavathy et al. 2003, Mansoub 2010, Santoso et al. 1995). Santoso et al. (1995) found that abdominal fat could be related to a decrease in the activity of acetyl-CoA carboxylase, the rate limiting enzyme in fatty acid synthesis, after Bacillus subtilis culture supplementation, which in turn could explain the decreased blood triglyceride content that was observed in their work. In agreement with that, in the present work lower (P<0.05) blood plasma triglyceride contents were observed in the supplemented treatments (Table III). However, no significant correlation could be found between abdominal fat and blood plasma triglyceride contents. Regarding organ weights, left caecum and thymus weights were higher (P<0.05) in the P1 treatment, and were higher or tended to be higher in the supplemented treatments (P<0.05 and P=0.13) compared with the control, showing quadratic trends (P<0.05 and P=0.06). Awad et al. (2009) did not find significant differences in the weights of caecum, liver, spleen, thymus and bursa of Fabricious, as a proportion of BW, between broilers fed a control or a probiotic supplemented diet. Other authors have also reported no effects of probiotic supplementation on lymphoid organs (Ahmadi 2011, Naseem et al. 2012). The enlarged caecum observed in the supplemented treatments of the present work could be explained by an increase of the length and density of the microvilli of the cecal tonsils due to the probiotics (Yurong et al. 2005).

Table III - Blood plasma constituents of 6-week old broilers fed diets containing either no probiotics (control) or 0.005%, 0.01%, 0.015% and 0.02% of probiotics (P1, P2, P3 and P4, respectively). All data were obtained from four birds per treatment. 

Treatments Probability
Control P1 P2 P3 P4 SEM Control vs probiotics Linear Quadratic
Glucose, mg dl-1 167.1 180.8 199.5 197.4 200.5 4.96 <0.05 <0.05 0.28
Total protein, g dl-1 4.02 3.56 3.27 4.40 4.23 0.165 0.69 0.25 0.14
Albumin, g dl-1 1.70b 1.92ab 2.54ab 2.98ab 3.25a 0.184 0.07 <0.01 0.62
Uric acid, mg dl-1 2.37 2.41 2.47 2.03 2.03 0.121 0.69 0.26 0.58
Triglycerides, mg dl-1 92.6a 74.2ab 73.8ab 69.6b 67.4b 2.91 <0.01 <0.01 0.16
Cholesterol, mg dl-1
Total 149.9a 129.6abc 136.2ab 111.2c 124.0bc 3.66 <0.01 <0.01 0.11
HDL 75.0b 92.8a 91.5a 73.8b 84.5ab 2.26 <0.05 1 0.03
LDL 56.4a 22.0b 30.0b 23.6b 26.0b 3.18 <0.001 <0.01 <0.01
VLDL 18.5a 14.9ab 14.8ab 13.9b 13.5b 0.58 <0.01 <0.01 0.16
Alkaline phosphatase, U L-1 139c 330a 355a 235b 258b 21.8 <0.001 <0.001 <0.01
Calcium, mg dl-1 10.18 9.42 7.81 9.04 9.32 0.338 0.13 0.37 0.09
Phosphorus, mg dl-1 5.01b 7.41a 7.47a 6.10ab 6.04ab 0.266 <0.01 0.56 <0.001

SEM: standard error of the mean. abc In a row, least squares means with a different superscript differ significantly (P<0.05) by Tukey's test. Probability of the probiotic supplementation effect. ‡ Probability of the linear and quadratic responses to the increasing levels of probiotics in the diet.

Blood parameters are shown in Table III. Blood glucose was higher (P<0.05) and albumin tended to be higher (P=0.07) in the supplemented treatments, both showing a positive linear response (P<0.05) to probiotic supplementation. These effects could be explained by a higher absorptive capacity of the intestinal mucosa due to histomorphological changes (Awad et al. 2009, Aliakbarpour et al. 2012) and/or a more effective digestion of the diet due to a higher intestinal enzyme activity (Jin et al. 2000, Mountzouris et al. 2007, Wang and Gu 2010), thus increasing the nutrients available to the animals. As previously discussed, blood triglyceride contents were lower (P<0.05) in the supplemented treatments. Blood total cholesterol was also lower (P<0.05) in the supplemented treatments and there was a change in the contents of the different cholesterol fractions: HDL was increased (P<0.05) and LDL and VLDL were decreased (P<0.05) by probiotic supplementation. Blood total cholesterol, LDL and VLDL showed a negative linear response (P<0.05) to probiotic supplementation. The negati ve effect of probiotic supplemented diets on broiler blood cholesterol content is well-known (El-Baky 2013, Kalavathy et al. 2003, Mansoub 2010, Panda et al. 2006, Santoso et al. 1995). Although the me chanisms involved are not fully understood, it is hypothesized that some bacterial probiotic strains are able to incorporate cholesterol into the bacterial cells, hydrolyze bile salts or inhibit hydroxyme thyl-glutaryl-CoA, the rate limiting enzyme of cholesterogenesis, thus reducing cholesterol in the body pool (Kalavathy et al. 2003). A decrease in blood LDL and VLDL cholesterol contents due to probiotic supplementation was also reported by Kalavathy et al. (2003) and Panda et al. (2006). Blood alkaline phosphatase activity and phosphorus content increased (P<0.05) due to probiotic supplementation, while no effects (P>0.05) were observed in calcium contents. Blood alkaline phosphatase activity showed a linear positive response (P<0.05) to the increasing levels of probiotics; however, the response of phosphorus was quadratic (P<0.001). On the contrary, El-Baky (2013) and Panda et al. (2006) observed no effects on blood alkaline phosphatase activities and phosphorus contents and higher calcium contents in probiotic supplemented treatments compared with the controls.

No effects of supplemented treatments (P>0.05) could be observed in cecal Lactobacilli counts; however, total anaerobe counts tended to increase (P=0.07), Enterococci counts increased (P<0.05) and Escherichia coli counts decreased (P<0.05) due to probiotic supplementation (Table IV). These results are in partial agreement with those of Giannenas et al. (2012) who did not observe differences in Lactobacilli, Enterococci and total anaerobe counts, but did observe lower Escherichia coli counts in the caecum of broilers fed a probiotic supplemented diet compared with the control. On the contrary, Mountzouris et al. (2007) reported that including probiotics in the diet of broilers caused higher concentrations of Lactobacilli and gram-positive cocci (e.g., Enterococci, Pediococci) in the cecal microflora compared with the controls.

Table IV - Cecal bacterial counts (log10 CFU g-1 digesta) of 6-week old broilers fed diets containing either no probiotics (control) or 0.005%, 0.01%, 0.015% and 0.02% of probiotics (P1, P2, P3 and P4, respectively). All data were obtained from four birds per treatment. 

Treatments Probability
Control P1 P2 P3 P4 SEM Control vs probiotics Linear Quadratic
Lactobacilli 7.53 7.85 7.81 7.70 7.54 0.082 0.36 0.83 0.19
Total aerobes 8.59b 8.74ab 8.71ab 8.88ab 9.08a 0.060 0.07 <0.01 0.22
Enterococci 6.53b 6.81ab 7.08a 7.00ab 6.98ab 0.065 <0.001 0.09 <0.05
Escherichia coli 7.99a 7.63ab 7.26c 7.76ab 7.51bc 0.063 <0.001 <0.001 <0.01

SEM: standard error of the mean. abc In a row, least squares means with a different superscript differ significantly (P<0.05) by Tukey's test. Probability of the probiotic supplementation effect. ‡ Probability of the linear and quadratic responses to the increasing levels of probiotics in the diet.

Probiotic supplementation had few significant effects on the immune response to the vaccines and SRBC administered to the animals (Table V). The P4 treatment showed the highest (P<0.05) antibody response to Newcastle disease at 27 days of age and IgM response to SRBC at 36 days of age. El-Baky (2013), Naseem et al. (2012) and Zakeri and Kashefi (2011) found higher antibody titers against influenza disease, infectious bursal disease and Newcastle disease virus, respectively, in broilers fed Protexin supplemented diets compared with the controls. Moreover, Rhee et al. (2004) and Haghighi et al. (2005) reported higher blood IgM against SRBC when probiotics were included in a broiler diet. However, Mountzouris et al. (2010) failed to show improvements in the overall broiler humoral immune status at systemic level in response to probiotic supplementation. Unclear immune response improvements in the supplemented treatments of the present work might be related to the lack of Lactobacilli count increases in the gastrointestinal tract (Table V), since those bacteria have been reported to have beneficial effects on the host's immune system (Xu et al. 2003).

Table V - Immune response after vaccination or injection of sheep red blood cells (SRBC) in broilers fed diets containing either no probiotics (control) or 0.005%, 0.01%, 0.015% and 0.02% of probiotics (P1, P2, P3 and P4, respectively). All data were obtained from four birds per treatment. 

Treatments Probability
Control P1 P2 P3 P4 SEM Control vs probiotics Linear Quadratic
Newcastle disease, log2
21 d 3.50 3.50 3.25 2.25 3.50 0.186 0.39 0.31 0.23
27 d 3.75ab 2.50b 2.75b 2.25b 4.00a 0.223 0.07 0.84 <0.01
Influenza disease, log2
21 d 2.50 2.50 2.00 1.75 2.75 0.193 0.62 0.86 0.19
27 d 2.25 1.50 1.75 1.25 2.50 0.182 0.25 0.83 <0.05
SRBC, log2
Total Ig 22 d 3.50 3.50 4.75 4.25 4.50 0.270 0.29 0.18 0.59
Total Ig 36 d 4.75 6.25 6.00 4.00 6.50 0.394 0.32 0.64 0.94
IgG 22 d 1.75 1.25 2.50 2.75 1.75 0.192 0.46 0.21 0.16
IgG 36 d 2.75 2.75 2.75 2.75 2.75 0.250 1 1 1
IgM 22 d 1.75 2.25 2.25 2.00 2.75 0.236 0.39 0.34 0.91
IgM 36 d 2.00bc 3.50ab 3.25ab 1.25c 3.75a 0.270 0.05 0.33 0.87

SEM: standard error of the mean. abc In a row, least squares means with a different superscript differ significantly (P<0.05) by Tukey's test. Probability of the probiotic supplementation effect. ‡ Probability of the linear and quadratic responses to the increasing levels of probiotics in the diet.


Under the conditions of the present study, probiotic supplementation at manufacturer's recommended or higher levels in broiler feed was effective in improving BWG and FCR and had few effects on carcass traits. Increased blood glucose and albumin contents indicated a better digestion and absorption of nutrients in the supplemented treatments. Blood triglycerides and total, LDL and VLDL cholesterol were linearly decreased by probiotic supplementation. Probiotics increased Enterococci counts and decreased Escherichia coli counts in the cecal contents, and had no clear positive effects on immunity related organs or immune response. The linear trends, either positive or negative, observed in many of the parameters studied suggest that the optimal concentration of probiotics in broiler feed deserves further investigations.


Financial support by Rasht Branch, Islamic Azad University, grant number 4.5830 is gratefully acknowledged. The Animal Production Depart ment of the University of Cordoba is also fully acknowledged.


Adil S and Magray SN. 2012. Impact and manipulation of gut microflora in poultry: A review. J Anim Vet Adv 11: 873-877. [ Links ]

Ahmadi F. 2011. The effect of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Thepax) on performance, blood parameters and relative weight of lymphoid organs of broiler chicks. Global Vet 6: 471-475. [ Links ]

Aliakbarpour HR, Chamani M, Rahimi G, Sadeghi AA and Qujeq D. 2012. The Bacillus subtilis and lactic acid bacteria probiotics influences intestinal mucin gene expression, histomorphology and growth performance in broilers. Asian-Australas J Anim Sci 25: 1285-1293. [ Links ]

Anjum MI, Khan AG, Azim A and Afzal M. 2005. Effect of dietary supplementation of multi-strain probiotic on broiler growth performance. Pak Vet J 25: 25-29. [ Links ]

Apata DF. 2008. Growth performance, nutrient digestibility and immune response of broiler chicks fed diets supplemented with a culture of Lactobacillus bulgaricus. J Sci Food Agr 88: 1253-1258. [ Links ]

Awad WA, Ghareeb K, Abdel-Raheem S and Böhm J. 2009. Effects of dietary inclusion of probiotic and synbiotic on growth performance, organ weights, and intestinal histomorphology of broiler chickens. Poultry Sci 88: 49-56. [ Links ]

El-Baky Aaa. 2013. Clinicopathological and immunological effects of multistrain probiotic on broiler chicken vaccinated against avian influenza virus. Global Vet 10: 534-541. [ Links ]

Fao/Who. 2001. Report of a joint FAO/WHO expert con sultation on evaluation of health and nutritional properties of probiotics in food including powder milk with live lactic acid bacteria. Córdoba, Argentina: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Health Organization, 30 p. [ Links ]

Giannenas I, Papadopoulos E, Tsalie E, Triantafillou EL, Henikl S, Teichmann K and Tontis D. 2012. Assessment of dietary supplementation with probiotics on performance, intestinal morphology and microflora of chickens infected with Eimeria tenella. Vet Parasitol 188: 31-40. [ Links ]

Haghighi HR, Gong J, Gyles CL, Hayes MA, Sanei B, Parvizi P, Gisavi H, Chambers JR and Sharif S. 2005. Modulation of antibody-mediated immune response by probiotics in chickens. Clin Vaccine Immunol 12: 1387-1392. [ Links ]

Huyghebaert G, Ducatelle R and Immerseel FV. 2011. An update on alternatives to antimicrobial growth promoters for broilers. Vet J 187: 182-188. [ Links ]

Jin LZ, Ho YW, Abdullah N and Jalaludin S. 2000. Digestive and bacterial enzyme activities in broilers fed diets supplemented with Lactobacillus cultures. Poultry Sci 79: 886-891. [ Links ]

Kalavathy R, Abdullah N, Jalaludin S and Ho YW. 2003. Effects of Lactobacillus cultures on growth perfor mance, abdominal fat deposition, serum lipids and weight of organs of broiler chickens. Br Poultry Sci 44: 139-144. [ Links ]

Khosravi A, Boldaji F, Dastar B and Hasani S. 2010. Immune response and performance of broiler chicks fed Protexin and propionic acid. Int J Poultry Sci 9: 188-191. [ Links ]

Lee K, Lillehoj HS and Siragusa GR. 2010. Direct-fed microbials and their impact on the intestinal microflora and immune system of chickens. J Poultry Sci 47: 106-114. [ Links ]

Li LL, Hou ZP, Li TJ, Wu GY, Huang RL, Tang ZR, Yang CB, Gong J, Yu H and Kong XF. 2008. Effects of dietary probiotic supplementation on ileal digestibility of nutrients and growth performance in 1- to 42-day-old broilers. J Sci Food Agr 88: 35-42. [ Links ]

Mansoub NH. 2010. Effect of probiotic bacteria utilization on serum cholesterol and triglycerides contents and performance of broiler chickens. Global Vet 5: 184-186. [ Links ]

Mehr MA, Shargh MS, Dastar B, Hassani S and Akbari MR. 2007. Effect of different levels of protein and Protexin on broiler performance. Int J Poultry Sci 6: 573-577. [ Links ]

Mountzouris KC, Tsitrsikos P, Kalamara E, Nitsch S, Schatzmayr G and Fegeros K. 2007. Evaluation of the efficacy of a probiotic containing Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Enterococcus, and Pediococcus strains in promoting broiler performance and modulating cecal microflora composition and metabolic activities. Poultry Sci 86: 309-317. [ Links ]

Mountzouris KC, Tsitrsikos P, Palamidi I, Arvaniti A, Mohnl M, Schatzmayr G and Fegeros K. 2010. Effects of probiotic inclusion levels in broiler nutrition on growth performance, nutrient digestibility, plasma immunoglobulins, and cecal microflora composition. Poultry Sci 89: 58-67. [ Links ]

Naseem S, Rahman SU, Shafee M, Sheikh AA and Khan A. 2012. Immunomodulatory and growth-promoting effect of a probiotic supplemented in the feed of broiler chicks vaccinated against infectious bursal disease. Braz J Poult Sci 14: 109-113. [ Links ]

National Research Council. 1994. Nutrient requirements of poultry, 9th ed., Washington DC: National Academy Press, 176 p. [ Links ]

Nayebpor M, Farhomand P and Hashemi A. 2007. Effects of different levels of direct fed microbial (Primalac) on growth performance and humoral immune response in broiler chickens. J Anim Vet Adv 6: 1308-1313. [ Links ]

Panda AK, Rao Svr, Raju MV and Sharma SR. 2006. Dietary supplementation of Lactobacillus sporogenes on performance and serum biochemico-lipid profile of broiler chickens. J Poultry Sci 43: 235-240. [ Links ]

Patterson JA and Burkholder KM. 2003. Application of prebiotics and probiotics in poultry production. Poultry Sci 82: 627-631. [ Links ]

Pirgozliev V, Bravo D and Rose SP. 2014. Rearing conditions influence nutrient availability of plant extracts supplemented diets when fed to broiler chickens. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr 98: 667-671. [ Links ]

Pourhossein Z, Qotbi Aaa, Seidavi A, Laudadio V, Centoducati G and Tufarelli V. 2014. Effect of different levels of dietary sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) peel extract on humoral immune system responses in broiler chickens. Anim Sci J 86(1): 105-110. [ Links ]

Rhee KJ, Sethupathi P, Driks A, Lanning DK and Knight KL. 2004. Role of commensal bacteria in development of gut-associated lymphoid tissues and preimmune antibody repertoire. J Immunol 172: 1118-1124. [ Links ]

Santos Fbo, Sheldon BW, Santos AA and Ferket PR. 2008. Influence of housing system, grain type, and particle size on Salmonella colonization and shedding of broilers fed triticale or corn-soybean meal diets. Poultry Sci 87: 405-420. [ Links ]

Santoso U, Tanaka K and Ohtani S. 1995. Effect of dried Bacillus subtilis culture on growth, body composition and hepatic lipogenic enzyme activity in female broiler chicks. Br J Nutr 74: 523-529. [ Links ]

Shim YH, Shinde PL, Choi JY, Kim JS, Seo DK, Pak JI, Chae BJ and Kwon IK. 2010. Evaluation of multi-microbial probiotics produced by submerged liquid and solid substrate fermentation methods in broilers. Asian Australas J Anim Sci 23: 521-529. [ Links ]

Wang Y and Gu Q. 2010. Effect of probiotic on growth performance and digestive enzyme activity of Arbor Acres broilers. Res Vet Sci 89: 163-167. [ Links ]

Xu ZR, Hu CH, Xia MS, Zhan XA and Wang MQ. 2003. Effects of dietary fructooligosaccharides on digestive enzyme activities, intestinal microflora and morphology of male broilers. Poultry Sci 82: 1030-1036. [ Links ]

Yang Y, Iji PA and Choct M. 2009. Dietary modulation of gut microflora in broiler chickens: a review of the role of six kinds of alternatives to in-feed antibiotics. World Poultry Sci J 65: 97-114. [ Links ]

Yurong Y, Ruiping S, Shimin Z and Yibao J. 2005. Effect of probiotics on intestinal mucosal immunity and ultrastructure of cecal tonsils of chickens. Arch Anim Nutr 59: 237-246. [ Links ]

Zakeri A and Kashefi P. 2011. The comparative effects of five growth promoters on broiler chickens humoral immunity and performance. J Anim Vet Adv 10: 1097-1101. [ Links ]

Received: January 30, 2015; Accepted: June 02, 2015

Correspondence to: Alireza Seidavi E-mail:

Creative Commons License This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License