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Microorganisms. 2019 Aug 22;7(9). pii: E282. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms7090282.

Differential Impact of Subtherapeutic Antibiotics and Ionophores on Intestinal Microbiota of Broilers.

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Department of Animal and Food Sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA.
Institute of Quality and Standards for Agro-products, Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Hangzhou 310021, China.
Hubei Key Laboratory of Animal Nutrition and Feed Science, Wuhan Polytechnic University, Wuhan 430000, China.
Department of Animal Science, Division of Agriculture, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USA.
Department of Animal and Food Sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA.


Antimicrobial growth promoters (AGPs) are commonly used in the livestock industry at subtherapeutic levels to improve production efficiency, which is achieved mainly through modulation of the intestinal microbiota. However, how different classes of AGPs, particularly ionophores, regulate the gut microbiota remains unclear. In this study, male Cobb broiler chickens were supplemented for 14 days with or without one of five commonly used AGPs including three classical antibiotics (bacitracin methylene disalicylate, tylosin, and virginiamycin) and two ionophores (monensin and salinomycin) that differ in antimicrobial spectrum and mechanisms. Deep sequencing of the V3-V4 region of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene revealed that two ionophores drastically reduced a number of rare bacteria resulting in a significant decrease in richness and a concomitant increase in evenness of the cecal microbiota, whereas three antibiotics had no obvious impact. Although each AGP modulated the gut microbiota differently, the closer the antibacterial spectrum of AGPs, the more similarly the microbiota was regulated. Importantly, all AGPs had a strong tendency to enrich butyrate- and lactic acid-producing bacteria, while reducing bile salt hydrolase-producing bacteria, suggestive of enhanced metabolism and utilization of dietary carbohydrates and lipids and improved energy harvest, which may collectively be responsible for the growth-promoting effect of AGPs.


antibiotics; antimicrobial growth promoters; chickens; ionophores; microbiota

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