The microbiome is important to all animals, including poultry, playing a critical role in health and performance. Low-dose antibiotics have historically been used to modulate food production animals and their microbiome. Identifying alternatives to antibiotics conferring similar modulatory properties has been elusive. The purpose of this study was to determine if a host-tailored probiotic could recapitulate effects of a low-dose antibiotic on host response and the developing microbiome. Over 13 days of life, turkey poults were supplemented continuously with a low-dose antibiotic or oral supplementation of a prebiotic with or without two different probiotics (8 cage units, n 80 per group). Gastrointestinal bacterial and fungal communities of poults were characterized by 16S rRNA gene and ITS2 amplicon sequencing. Localized and systemic host gene expression was assessed using transcriptome sequencing (RNA-Seq), kinase activity was assessed by avian-specific kinome peptide arrays, and performance parameters were assessed. We found that development of the early-life microbiome of turkey poults was tightly ordered in a tissue- and timespecific manner. Low-dose antibiotic and turkey-tailored probiotic supplementation, but not nontailored probiotic supplementation, elicited similar shifts in overall microbiome composition during development compared to controls. Treatment-induced bacterial changes were accompanied by parallel shifts in the fungal community and host gene expression and enhanced performance metrics. These results were validated in pen trials that identified further additive effects of the turkey-tailored probiotic combined with different prebiotics. Alternative approaches to low-dose antibiotic use in poultry are feasible and can be optimized utilizing the indigenous poultry microbiome. Similar approaches may also be beneficial for humans.
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