Upregulation of oxidative burst and degranulation in chicken heterophils stimulated with probiotic bacteria. Academic Article uri icon


  • The immune system of neonatal chicks is functionally immature during the first week of life. Researchers have previously demonstrated that the avian humoral response can be increased with probiotics. Although the humoral response provides the chick with an effective mechanism to combat pathogens, sufficient antibody titers are not attained until 7 to 10 d postinfection. However, the innate immune system (i.e., heterophils) can respond much more quickly to pathogens. The objective of this study was to determine whether probiotic bacteria can also upregulate heterophil function. Heterophils were isolated from the peripheral blood of neonatal chickens by using a discontinuous density gradient. Oxidative burst and degranulation are bactericidal mechanisms used by heterophils to kill pathogens and were used in this study as indicators of heterophil function. We found that each of the 10 "generally recognized as safe" probiotic isolates (designated G1 to G11) tested in vitro were capable of increasing (P < 0.05) heterophil oxidative burst and degranulation when compared with unstimulated controls. Bacillus subtilis (G3), Lactococcus lactis lactis (G6), and Lactobacillus acidophilus (G8) isolates were determined to elicit the greatest heterophil response in vitro and were subsequently fed to chicks. Phosphate-buffered saline or 1 of these 3 probiotic isolates (approximately 2.5 x 10(8) cfu/chick; 50 chicks/treatment) resuspended in PBS was administered by oral gavage on the day of hatch. Heterophils were isolated from chicks from each of these 4 treatment groups 24 h posttreatment. Significant increases in heterophil degranulation and oxidative burst were observed with the G3-, G6-, and G8-treated chicks when compared with heterophils isolated from birds with no probiotic treatment. These data suggest that probiotic bacteria can significantly improve heterophil oxidative burst and degranulation in broilers. To our knowledge, this is the first study demonstrating a relationship between probiotics and avian heterophil function.

published proceedings

  • Poult Sci

altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Farnell, M. B., Donoghue, A. M., de Los Santos, F. S., Blore, P. J., Hargis, B. M., Tellez, G., & Donoghue, D. J.

citation count

  • 98

complete list of authors

  • Farnell, MB||Donoghue, AM||de Los Santos, F Solis||Blore, PJ||Hargis, BM||Tellez, G||Donoghue, DJ

publication date

  • January 2006