Epithelial Integrity Can Prevent Food Safety Issues in Your Flock

This is part 4 of a 4-part series exploring how epithelial integrity is the first line of defense to target immunomodulation, BCO and food safety issues. If you missed part 3, catch up here.

If you’re a poultry producer, chances are you know the common food safety issues of today by name – such as E. coli, Staphylococcus spp., Salmonella spp. and Campylobacter, spp. Even though the food supply is safer today than ever before, there are still an estimated two million cases of Salmonella infections, resulting in 2,000 deaths in the United States each year.

The first line of defense for preventing foodborne illnesses is maintaining a strong epithelial barrier. The epithelial tissue is a solid wall with cells attached to each other by tight junctions, that cover the body on the outside and the inside of tubular organs. When epithelial integrity is weakened, it allows potentially toxic bacteria into the bloodstream, internal organs and ultimately into the surrounding muscles of the bird.

Therefore, it is essential to maintain a strong epithelium and prevent those bacteria from getting into the bloodstream in the first place.

Weak Epithelium Opens the Door for Bacteria

Bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses are generally present in the environment of a poultry barn and birds are usually exposed to them early in life when they are first establishing their normal microflora or when they face intestinal challenges. Just like in bacterial chondronecrosis and osteomyelitis (BCO), these bacteria will wait for an inflammatory process to damage the epithelial barrier.

When epithelial integrity is weakened and these harmful bacteria enter the bloodstream, the immune system starts working to kill them. But, if the bird is close to market weight, the bacteria may still be present at the processing facility and could spread to the muscles contaminating the meat and final products, causing foodborne illness in consumers.

Trace Minerals Are Essential for Epithelial Integrity

When epithelial cells are damaged by stress, parasites or bacteria, they must be replaced right away to maintain the integrity of the epithelium and prevent bacteria from entering the bloodstream. Trace minerals, like zinc and manganese, are critical to the production and maintenance of epithelial tissues, as well as for producing an adequate immune response.

For example, tight junction proteins, like ZO-1, ZO-2, claudin and occludin, require zinc for their synthesis. Additionally, epithelial cells contain a cytoskeleton matrix of collagen and keratin filaments to maintain a protective layer and cellular structure. Zinc is a key mineral in the process of keratinization.

Trace mineral requirements in commercial flocks are not easily met due to the antagonists present in the diets. Birds need these trace minerals not only to fuel the immune response and healing, but they must also have enough levels left to fuel their growth and production. Performance trace minerals utilize a unique pathway for absorption: the amino acid transporter. This minimizes the various antagonistic interactions to which other trace minerals are subject and enhances the trace mineral reaching the intestinal lining. This means that birds will absorb more minerals to fuel an adequate immune response and have sufficient levels left over to maximize growth and production.

A summary of 30 studies showed an improvement in epithelial tissue strength by greater than 30% in poultry when supplemented with zinc, manganese or a combination of both from performance trace minerals.

Block Out Foodborne Illness Bacteria

Weakened epithelial integrity in poultry opens the door for harmful bacteria to translocate into the bloodstream and the surrounding muscles, potentially causing foodborne illness issues in the final product. Maintaining a strong epithelial barrier with trace mineral nutrition is the first line of defense against these foodborne-illness-causing bacteria.

Contact your Zinpro representative today to talk about ways you can improve epithelial integrity in your poultry flock.

Related Stories

Animal Agriculture Sustainability: A Journey

Why Oxidative Stress Matters for Poultry Meat Quality

Three Ideal Traits for Improving Layer Health and Eggshell Quality