Researcher Issued Patent for Poultry Gut Bacteria Health

Alumni News Faculty News Graduate News Research News STEM News

Dr. Melha Mellata, an associate professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN), was recently issued a U.S. and International patent for Gut Bacterium-based Treatment to Increase Poultry Gut Health and Food Safety. In conjunction with her graduate student, Graham Redweik, Mellata investigated probiotic compositions and methods, specifically the method of using segmented filamentous bacteria (SFB) to improve gastrointestinal health, reduce bacterial pathogens, and stimulate host immune function in poultry, specifically, chickens.

Dr. Melha Mellatta, Associate Professor for the department of Food Science and Human Nutrition.

According to the patent summary, the intestinal tract is considered the central site for optimizing health and performance of production in animals. It is a complex tissue system that is critical to absorbing nutrients to energize functions, while simultaneously serving as a barrier to pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella, for example. In chickens, optimal nutrient absorption is necessary to ensure full growth as well as healthy egg-laying. More important is the protection of these animals from pathogenic bacteria that can colonize, asymptomatically, in the gut without causing harm to animals, such as Salmonella in chickens, and further passed on to humans through consumption to cause foodborne illnesses. The best way to perform an intervention to prevent absorption of harmful bacteria is through interventions at the gastrointestinal tract. Recent practices for poultry, especially chickens, has been the use of probiotics to maximize feed efficiency and pathogen resistance. The shortcoming of this method is that the extensive use of probiotics can serve as a potential reservoir for antibiotic resistance.

Studies of SFB have shown that these bacteria are present in the intestinal epithelial lining of various animals, and are host specific, meaning that each animal has their own unique ecosystem of them. Further research shows that the presence of these gut bacteria enables a stimulation of the specific animal’s immune system, promoting T Cell differentiation that improves the epithelial barrier function, decreasing the transfer of pathogenic bacteria. In chickens, SFB growth in the intestine peaks at approximately 14 days after hatching, but because each host has unique colonization patterns, there are various protection levels among them. This method uses SFB from a previous chicken’s intestinal tract, in which chickens are given the treatment orally immediately after hatching, to promote faster, and more consistent development of SFB, leading to efficient feeding, as well as enhanced protection against harmful bacteria, without the threat of developing antibiotic resistance.