Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Biological Sciences


Biological Sciences


Christopher L. Kitts


As of January 2017, the U.S. poultry industry banned the use of antibiotics and now relies on alternatives such as probiotics to help protect animal health. Although probiotic use is not a new concept in the poultry industry, identifying the best combination of bacterial strains to generate an effective probiotic formula requires further investigation. This study aimed to detect a probiotic product of four bacterial strains (Pedioccoccus acidilactici, Pediococcus pentosaceus, Lactobacillus plantarum, and Bacillus subtilis) in a feeding trial with broiler chickens. Birds given the probiotic were predicted to show an improved growth performance with the probiotics colonizing the gut. Ninety-six broiler chickens were equally divided into 3 treatment and 3 control pens. During the 25-day experiment, birds were fed a starter diet (days 0-11) and a grower diet (days 12-25). Experimental birds were administered the probiotic product via the drinking water at a concentration of 3.1×104 CFU/ml. Control birds had an equivalent amount of dextrose filler added to their water supply. Feces were collected hourly on day one and daily thereafter. On days 1, 22, and 25 of the experiment, 2 birds from each pen were euthanized for gut sampling. Lumen and mucosa samples were collected from the duodenum, jejunum, ileum, and ceca. Species-specific and strain specific PCR primers were employed for probiotic detection. Wild strains of P. acidilactici, P. pentosaceus, and L. plantarum were detected in the feeds, inhibiting detection of the probiotic strains when using species-specific PCR primers. Strain-specific primers were used to detect the probiotic Pedioccoccus acidilactici and Lactobacillus plantarum strains. B. subtilis was detected in feces within one hour of probiotic administration and was predominantly detected in experimental birds only. Both P. acidilactici and L. plantarum probiotic strains were initially detected in the feces of treated birds within two hours of probiotic administration and again ten days later. Both L. plantarum and B. subtilis were seen only in treated bird gut samples. L. plantarum was predominantly detected in the ceca near the end of the small intestine. P. pentosaceus was observed more often in treated gut samples and P. acidilactici was the least commonly detected probiotic strain. All administered bacteria were rarely seen in mucosa samples. Feed-endogenous P. acidilactici and L. plantarum strains became progressively more detectable in the mucosa along the gastrointestinal tract suggesting gut colonization, however, probiotic strains did not appear to colonize the mucosa of treated birds. Although probiotic strains were no longer detected after product removal, all probiotic strains were detected in feces and gut samples during probiotic administration, suggesting the bacteria can colonize the gut. Probiotic supplementation did not result in significant differences in body weight gain, feed intake, or feed conversion ratio. However, birds growing in a more stressful environment than the carefully controlled experimental set up used here may show probiotic-related effects. This study identified that the probiotic bacteria appeared to survive the gastrointestinal tract, exhibited a transit time of 1-2 hours, could possibly colonize chickens, and localized near the end of the chicken gut.