A range of feed supplements, including antibiotics, have been commonly used in poultry production to improve health and productivity. Alternative methods are needed to suppress pathogen loads and maintain productivity. As an alternative to antibiotics use, we investigated the ability of biochar, bentonite and zeolite as separate 4% feed additives, to selectively remove pathogens without reducing microbial richness and diversity in the gut. Neither biochar, bentonite nor zeolite made any significant alterations to the overall richness and diversity of intestinal bacterial community. However, reduction of some bacterial species, including some potential pathogens was detected. The microbiota of bentonite fed animals were lacking all members of the order Campylobacterales. Specifically, the following operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were absent: an OTU 100% identical to Campylobacter jejuni; an OTU 99% identical to Helicobacter pullorum; multiple Gallibacterium anatis (>97%) related OTUs; Bacteroides dorei (99%) and Clostridium aldenense (95%) related OTUs. Biochar and zeolite treatments had similar but milder effects compared to bentonite. Zeolite amended feed was also associated with significant reduction in the phylum Proteobacteria. All three additives showed potential for the control of major poultry zoonotic pathogens.
- gastrointestinal tract