What impact do resin acids have on broiler intestinal health?

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/ Serg_Velusceac
© GettyImages/ Serg_Velusceac

Related tags: Broiler, Gut health, Resin acids, essential oils, microbiota

The chicken gut is constantly exposed to harmful molecules and microorganisms that endanger the integrity of the intestinal wall. Strengthening intestinal mucosal integrity is a key target for feed additives that aim to promote intestinal health in broilers, says an expert.

Prof Richard Ducatelle, head of the laboratory of veterinary pathology, University of Ghent, was speaking at the FeedNavigator Summit 2020: Young Animal Nutrition​ in Amsterdam earlier this month about how nutritional tools, among them resin-based products, can improve broiler performance.

Coniferous resin acids are known for their antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties, he said.

The mode of action of resin-based products, though, is still largely unexplored. 

Professor Richard Ducatelle, University of Ghent, speaking at YAN20 in Amsterdam

To add to the scientific data on such nutritional tools, Ducatelle, along with a raft of leading poultry health and nutrition experts, recently set about exploring the effect of pure resin acids on broiler intestinal health. The paper on their findings was published in the journal Veterinary Research​ in February last year.

The study involved 20 1-day old Ross 308 broilers, the trial group were fed a diet supplemented with coniferous resin acids for 22 days, following which the effect on both the intestinal microbiota as well as on the intestinal tissue morphology and activity of host collagenases was assessed.

The team saw that dietary inclusion of resin acids did not alter the morphology of the healthy intestine and only minor effects on the intestinal microbiota were observed. However, resin acids-supplementation reduced both duodenal inflammatory T cell infiltration and small intestinal matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) activity towards collagen type I and type IV, they found.

“Reduced breakdown of collagen type I and IV might indicate a protective effect of resin acids on intestinal barrier integrity by preservation of the basal membrane and the extracellular matrix.”


The team of poultry experts argued that further studies are needed to explore the protective effects of resin acids on broiler intestinal health under sub-optimal conditions and to plug knowledge gaps on the mechanisms behind the observed effects.

The observation that resin acids have an effect on host intestinal inflammation and MMP activity provides a new direction for future research on the effects of resin acids on broiler intestinal health, they concluded.

“In the present study, resin acids-supplementation of broiler diet reduced small intestinal MMP activity and duodenal inflammatory T-cell abundance, while maintaining optimal gut morphology. Only minor effects on the microbiota composition and its metabolic functions were observed. To confirm the presumably direct effects of resin acids on the propria mucosa homeostasis, further in vitro studies are required in absence of the host microbiota." 

Source: Vet Res 50, 15 (2019)

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13567-019-0633-3

Title: In-feed resin acids reduce matrix metalloproteinase activity in the ileal mucosa of healthy broilers without inducing major effects on the gut microbiota.

Authors: Aguirre, M., Vuorenmaa, J., Valkonen, E. et al.

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