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Several studies were carried out to investigate the influence of dietary cereals differing in soluble non starch polysaccharides (NSP) content and a xylanase preparation on selected bacterial parameters in the small intestine of broiler chicken. Compared to a maize diet colony forming units (CFU) of mucosa associated bacteria were higher in a wheat/rye diet, most notably for enterobacteria and enterococci. Xylanase supplementation to the wheat/rye diet generally led to lower CFU, especially in the first week of life. However, xylanase supplementation also displayed higher in vitro growth potentials for enterobacteria and enterococci. Bacterial growth of luminal samples in minimal media supplemented with selected NSP showed that the wheat/rye diet enhanced bacterial capacities to utilize NSP only in ileal samples. The xylanase application generally shifted respective maximum growth to the proximal part of the small intestine. The presence of soluble NSP from wheat or rye in the diet per se did not enhance bacterial NSP hydrolyzing enzyme activities in the small intestine, but xylanase supplementation resulted in higher 1,3-1,4-beta-glucanase activity. Compared to a maize diet the activity of bacterial bile salt hydrolases in samples of the small intestine was not increased due to inclusion of wheat/rye or triticale to the diet. However, xylanase supplementation led to a reduction with a corresponding increase of lipase activity. It was concluded that dietary cereals producing high intestinal viscosities lead to increased overall bacterial activity in the small intestine. The supplementation of a xylanase to cereal based diets producing high intestinal viscosity, changes composition and metabolic potential of bacterial populations and may specifically influence fat absorption in young animals.