Plant flavonoids are generally regarded as natural replacers of synthetic growth promoters in poultry production. This study investigated the immunomodulatory effects of plant flavonoids, such as genistein and hesperidin, in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-challenged broilers. A total of 700 21-day-old commercial Arbor Acres broiler chicks were randomly assigned into six treatment groups, each having six pens of 20 chicks/pen. Chicks were fed a basal diet without any additive (control, CON), 5 mg genistein/kg feed (G5), 20 mg hesperidin/kg (H20), or a basal diet with a combination of genistein and hesperidin (1 : 4) with doses of 5 mg/kg feed (GH5), 10 mg/kg (GH10) and 20 mg/kg (GH20) for 6 weeks. Half of the birds from each treatment were separated, and either challenged with 0·9% sodium chloride solution or Escherichia coli LPS (250 μg/kg BW) on days 16, 18 and 20. The results showed that both genistein and hesperidin improved (P<0.01) the plasma antioxidant status of growing broilers, by increasing total antioxidant capacity (TAOC), superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity and decreasing malondialdehyde production. LPS challenge further increased (P<0.05) TAOC and SOD levels. Regardless of LPS challenge, both genistein and hesperidin improved the humoral and mucosal immunity by increasing the intestinal intraepithelial lymphocyte numbers (P<0.01), as well as anti-Newcastle disease and anti-avian influenza antibody titers (P<0.05). Supplementation of both the plant flavonoids generally increased (P<0.05) the immune organs indices (spleen, thymus and bursa). Thus, supplementation of basal diet of broiler chicks, either with genistein or hesperidin, improved immune and antioxidant status of growing broilers. In addition, combined supplementation of both the flavonoids showed further improvement than individual compounds.
Keywords: LPS challenge; antioxidant status; genistein; hesperidin; immunomodulation.