According to the World Health Organisation, antibiotics are rapidly losing potency in every country of the world. Poultry are currently perceived as a major source of pathogens and antimicrobial resistance. There is an urgent need for new and natural ways to control pathogens in poultry and humans alike. Porous, cation rich, aluminosilicate minerals, zeolites can be used as a feed additive in poultry rations, demonstrating multiple productivity benefits. Next generation sequencing of the 16S rRNA marker gene was used to phylogenetically characterize the fecal microbiota and thus investigate the ability and dose dependency of zeolite in terms of anti-pathogenic effects. A natural zeolite was used as a feed additive in laying hens at 1, 2, and 4% w/w for a 23 week period. At the end of this period cloacal swabs were collected to sample faecal microbial communities. A significant reduction in carriage of bacteria within the phylum Proteobacteria, especially in members of the pathogen-rich family Enterobacteriaceae, was noted across all three concentrations of zeolite. Zeolite supplementation of feed resulted in a reduction in the carriage of a number of poultry pathogens without disturbing beneficial bacteria. This effect was, in some phylotypes, correlated with the zeolite concentration. This result is relevant to zeolite feeding in other animal production systems, and for human pathogenesis.
Keywords: Chicken; Clinoptilolite; Pathogens; Poultry; Proteobacteria; Zeolite.
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