Research roundup: Turkey research proves customized probiotics may be an effective alternative to antibiotics

October 15, 2019

The microbiome—the genetic material of all bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses that live on and in all animals—is critical in the health and performance of production animals, such as turkeys. In the past, veterinarians routinely delivered low-dose antibiotics to young turkeys as they developed in order to maximize their production. However, overexposing turkeys to antibiotics can lead to antimicrobial resistance, which can make some turkey diseases untreatable and poses a serious risk to human health. Tim Johnson, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, recently led a team of U of M researchers on a project pursuing microbiome-based customized probiotics to maximize production and improve animal health. The team found that low-dose antibiotics and probiotics conferred similar results, but only when the probiotic supplementation was tailored specifically to the turkeys—probiotics that matched the concoction of microbes living within high-performing turkeys. The researchers concluded that alternative approaches to low-dose antibiotic use in poultry are feasible and can be optimized when using the indigenous poultry microbiome, and that similar approaches may be beneficial for humans. 

Read more in the October 15 issue of mBio.