2005 - 2008

Carbohydrase enzyme supplements as growth promoters and modulators of the intestinal microflora of the chicken: The prebiotic and probiotic effect of enzyme hydrolysis products

Principal Investigator: Bogdan Slominski and Gregory Blank, University of Manitoba
Status: Completed


Common poultry diets based on corn, soybean, wheat and other plant-based ingredients have a number of constituents that are poorly digested. The presence of these indigestibles in the gut can serve as a substrate for a range of deleterious organisms. A significant proportion of these indigestibles are referred to as non-starch polysaccharides (NSP). The objective of this project is to use a new generation of carbohydrase enzymes to increase the hydrolysis of NSP and to see if their hydrolysis products promote the proliferation of beneficial bacteria in the gut and help protect poultry from Clostridium perfringens (the causative organism of necrotic enteritis). If successful, the use of carbohydrase supplements could offset the use of antibiotics in poultry feeds.

Research Progress

A carbohydrase enzyme mix was tested at a range of concentrations and was shown to significantly depolymerize NSP of soybean meal, canola meal and flax. The ability of the enzymes to decrease the viscosity of flax-based products was also confirmed (high viscosity digesta has been linked to proliferation of pathogenic bacteria in the gut). The NSP hydrolysis products have been characterized. Drs. Slominski and Blank also looked at the effect of enzyme products on the proliferation of C. perfringens in the lab. These lab results did not demonstrate any clear effects, however experiments are now underway to test the effect of the enzyme supplement on the bacterium in the gut. Previous experiments suggest that when birds are fed diets without antibiotics or coccidiostats, enzyme supplementation results in an increase in feed efficiency. The enzymes may also slightly reduce the number of Enterbacteriacea and coliform bacteria in the small intestine and may increase the ratio of lactic acid bacteria to E. coli in the gut (it is hypothesized that carbohydrase hydrolysis products increase acidity in the gut making conditions more suitable to beneficial bacteria such as lactobacilli thereby allowing them to out compete other deleterious bacteria such as E. coli). These results, although promising, likely do not demonstrate the true value of the enzyme supplement. More dramatic benefits of enzyme supplementation are shown when birds are challenged with C. perfringens. Preliminary results indicate that when birds are fed a wheat-based diet, feed efficiency is increased during the grower-finisher phase compared to challenged birds that did not receive the supplement. Overall weight gain was improved for birds on corn-based diets. Similar challenge studies are now underway using a ‘hot’ field strain of C. perfringens known to cause necrotic enteritis in the field.


$327,800 (CPRC $82,900, CBS $78,000, CBS (in kind) $6,000, ARDI $160,900)


Jia, W., B.A. Slominski, H.L. Bruce, G. Blank, and O. Jones. 2009. Effects of diet type and enzyme addition on growth performance and gut health of broiler chickens during sub-clinical Clostridium perfringens challenge. Poult. Sci. 88: 132-140. Jia, W., B.A. Slominski, H.L. Bruce, G. Blank, and O. Jones. 2009. Enzyme addition facilitates the post-disease compensatory growth of broiler chickens challenged with Clostridium perfringens. Canadian Journal of Animal Science (Submitted Feb. 13, 2009). Wang, X., G. Blank, and B. Slominski. 2009. Growth of Clostridium perfringens and background microbiology in ligated small intestine segments from broiler chickens fed wheat/soybean/canola meal- or wheat/soybean/canola meal/flax-based diets without or with enzyme supplementation. Poult. Sci. (to be submitted).

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