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Due to an interplay between intestinal microbiota and immune system, disruption of intestinal microbiota composition during immune development may have consequences for immune responses later in life. The present study investigated the effects of antibiotic treatment in the first weeks of life on the specific antibody response later in life in chickens. Layer chicks received an antibiotic cocktail consisting of vancomycin, neomycin, metronidazole, and amphotericin-B by oral gavage every 12 h, and ampicillin and colistin in drinking water for the first week of life. After the first week of life, chicks received ampicillin and colistin in drinking water for two more weeks. Control birds received no antibiotic cocktail and plain drinking water. Fecal microbiota composition was determined during antibiotic treatment (d 8 and 22), two weeks after cessation of antibiotic treatment (d 36), and at the end of the experimental period at d 175 using a 16S ribosomal RNA gene targeted microarray, the Chicken Intestinal Tract Chip (ChickChip). During antibiotic treatment fecal microbiota composition differed strongly between treatment groups. Fecal microbiota of antibiotic treated birds consisted mainly of Proteobacteria, and in particular E.coli, whereas fecal microbiota of control birds consisted mainly of Firmicutes, such as lactobacilli and clostridia. Two weeks after cessation of antibiotic treatment fecal microbiota composition of antibiotic treated birds had recovered and was similar to that of control birds. On d 105, 12 weeks after cessation of antibiotic treatment, chicks of both treatment groups received an intra-tracheal lipopolysaccharide (LPS)/human serum albumin (HuSA) challenge. Antibody titers against LPS and HuSA were measured 10 days after administration of the challenge. While T cell independent antibody titers (LPS) were not affected by antibiotic treatment, antibiotic treated birds showed lower T cell dependent antibody titers (HuSA) compared with control birds. In conclusion, intestinal microbial dysbiosis early in life may still have effects on the specific antibody response months after cessation of antibiotic treatment and despite an apparent recovery in microbiota composition.
- Immune response
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