Abstract

The data that have been presented indicate that the in ovo use of competitive exclusion (CE) agents is feasible for both chickens and turkeys. However, there are many pitfalls that await the use of in ovo application of CE agents, including the use of nonspecies-specific intestinal microbes and the use of harmful proteolytic, gas-producing and toxin-producing intestinal microbes. Of the potential CE agents that have posthatch application, only Lactobacillus reuteri has been shown to be safe and effective in terms of not affecting hatchability and in having a prolonged effect in the hatched chick or poult. Lactobacillus reuteri administration in ovo increases its rate of intestinal colonization and decreases the colonization of Salmonella and Escherichia coli in both chicks and poults. Additionally, mortality due to in-hatcher exposure to E. coli or Salmonella is reduced with in ovo L. reuteri. Use of antibiotics in ovo may preclude the use of co-administered CE agents, but Gentamicin and L. reuteri are a compatible mixture when administered in ovo in separate compartments. Nevertheless, the intestinal morphology can be affected by both the CE agent and by antibiotics. Lactobacillus reuteri both in ovo and ex ovo will increase villus height and crypt depth, and Gentamicin in ovo causes a shortening and blunting of the villus. Both Gentamicin and L. reuteri in ovo suppress potentially pathogenic enteric microbes, but with diminished antibiotic effects shortening and blunting of the intestinal villi does not correct itself. Goblet cell numbers increase significantly on the ileum villus of chicks treated with Gentamicin in ovo, and this is presumably due to the increase in potentially pathogenic bacteria in the intestinal tract. Diminishing antibiotic effects posthatch would then negatively affect the absorption of nutrients and reduce growth at least in a transitory manner. Thus, L reuteri administration in ovo singly or in combination with Gentamicin followed by L reuteri via drinking water or feed appears to have potential to control many enteric pathogens in poultry. Additional work in the use of in ovo CE cultures is mandated because there is a world-wide movement to reduce antibiotic use in poultry due to increased microbial resistance to antibiotics. Use of naturally occurring intestinal bacterial cultures, either in mixed culture or as single well-defined cultures, has potential for immediate use in the poultry industry.