BACTERIOPHAGES could play a role in controlling salmonella levels in poultry, new trials have suggested.

Bacteriophages, or phages, are natural viruses of bacteria and can be used as an alternative to antibiotics to treat bacterial infections.

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A collaboration between the University of Leicester and feed firm AB Agri sought to discover whether a cocktail of phages delivered in feed could reduce Salmonella colonisation in chickens.

In the trial, 672 Ross 308 male birds were split into a control and treatment groups and fed various combinations and concentrations of diets supplemented with phages.

The chickens were challenged with a strain of salmonella and pooled faecal samples were taken from each pen of birds to assess both salmonella levels and phage counts.


The results show that delivering phages via feed effectively reduced Salmonella colonisation in chickens, with the lowest phage dose being the most effective, reducing Salmonella counts to below detection limits by the end of the trial.

“This study offered us an opportunity to further explore one of the exciting emerging themes in bacterial virus research,” the University of Leicester’s Martha R. J. Clokie, said.

“The results highlight phages as a promising tool to target bacterial infections in poultry.”

‘Significant health challenge’

AB Agri’s Director of Innovation, Nell Masey O’Neill added: “Foodborne diseases, including Salmonellosis in humans, are a significant world health challenge.

“According to the World Health Organisation almost 1 in 10 people fall ill and 33 million of healthy life years are lost every year.

“This study shows that phage may be a useful weapon against this challenge, helping our industry produce safer food.

Gut health

“Furthermore, our industry has been responsible by taking growth-promoting antibiotics out of poultry diets, but that leaves us with gut health challenges.

“Phages could offer a potential solution, so we were keen to explore the possibilities with academic partners at the University of Leicester.”

The research abstract “Assessing the efficacy of bacteriophage therapy to reduce Salmonella colonisation in broiler chickens” was shared at the recent virtual Poultry Science Association annual meeting.