Intestinal mucus protects Campylobacter jejuni in the ceca of colonized broiler chickens against the bactericidal effects of medium-chain fatty acids

D Hermans, A Martel, K Van Deun, M Verlinden, F Van Immerseel, A Garmyn, W Messens, M Heyndrickx, F Haesebrouck, F Pasmans

    Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


    Campylobacter jejuni is the most common cause of bacterial-mediated diarrheal disease worldwide. Because poultry and poultry products are a major source of C. jejuni infections in humans, efforts should be taken to develop strategies to decrease Campylobacter shedding during primary production. For this purpose, the efficacy of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) as feed additives to control C. jejuni colonization in broiler chickens was analyzed. First, the antimicrobial activity of the MCFA caproic, caprylic, and capric acid on C. jejuni was evaluated in vitro. Minimal inhibitory concentrations were 0.25 mM for caproic and 0.5 mM for caprylic and capric acids at pH 6.0 and 4 mM for all 3 compounds at pH 7.5. Time-kill curves revealed strong bactericidal properties of the tested compounds toward C. jejuni at pH 6.0. Concentrations as low as 4 mM caprylic and capric acids and 16 mM caproic acid killed all bacteria within 24 h. Capric acid had the highest activity, with concentrations of 4 mM killing all bacteria within the hour. Together these data show a profound bactericidal, dose-dependent activity of the tested MCFA toward C. jejuni in vitro. For this reason, the effect of these 3 MCFA on C. jejuni was evaluated in vivo. The addition of any of the acids to the feed, from 3 d before euthanization, was not capable of reducing cecal Campylobacter colonization in 27-d-old broilers experimentally infected with C. jejuni at 15 d of age. Using a cecal loop model, sodium caprate was not able to reduce cecal Campylobacter counts. When time-kill curves were conducted in the presence of chick intestinal mucus, capric acid was less active against C. jejuni. At 4 mM, all bacteria were killed only after 24 h. Thus, despite the marked bactericidal effect of MCFA in vitro, supplementing these acids to the feed does not reduce cecal Campylobacter colonization in broiler chickens under the applied test conditions, probably due to the protective effect of the mucus layer.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalPoultry science
    Issue number6
    Pages (from-to)1144-55
    Number of pages12
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


    • Animal Feed
    • Animals
    • Anti-Bacterial Agents
    • Campylobacter Infections
    • Campylobacter jejuni
    • Cecum
    • Chickens
    • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
    • Fatty Acids
    • Female
    • Male
    • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
    • Mucus
    • Poultry Diseases


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