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Epithelium: The First Line of Defense

4 minute read

Epithelial tissue, or skin, is an animal’s first line of defense against environmental challenges. It covers all exterior and interior surfaces of the body, like its cavities, tubes, organs and blood vessels, including the respiratory, reproductive, urogenital and gastrointestinal tracts.

Organisms and physical and chemical insults are constantly trying to breach the interior and exterior epithelial surfaces to compromise the tissue. When a breach occurs, it allows easy entry of foreign pathogens. Epithelial tissue establishes barriers that protect humans and animals from moisture, bacteria, viruses, yeasts, fungi, molds, mites, insects and mechanical insults.

Epithelial cells are “bound” or “stitched” together by complex protein structures called tight junctions. The role of these tight junctions is to hold the cells together. When tight junctions are weakened, it allows for bacteria, pathogens and toxins to be able to pass through the epithelial tissue and into the blood stream, which causes a broiler to become infected. Epithelial tissue must be constantly repaired and replaced, and the integrity of tight junctions must be maintained in order to protect against environmental challenges.

Performance Trace Minerals Help Strengthen Tight Junctions and Improve Epithelial Integrity

Trace minerals, like zinc and manganese, are critical for the production and maintenance of epithelial tissue. When Zinpro Performance Minerals® are included in broiler chicken nutrition programs, rejuvenation of epithelial tissue and tight junctions occurs more quickly and efficiently and results in improved overall animal wellness and performance in broiler chickens.

To maintain a protective layer and cellular structure, epithelial cells contain a cytoskeleton matrix composed of keratin filaments or tightly-wrapped protein fibers. Keratin’s primary role is to make skin a pliable, insoluble and unreactive barrier against the natural environment. Zinc is a key mineral in the process of keratinization.

A summary of 30 studies showed an improvement in epithelial tissue strength by greater than 30 percent in poultry when supplemented with zinc, manganese or a combination of both from Zinpro Performance Minerals.

Performance Trace Minerals Help Manage Leaky Gut and Intestinal Inflammation

The lining of the gastrointestinal tract is comprised of a layer of epithelial cells, bound together by tight junctions. Their role is to prevent bacteria, pathogens and toxins from passing through the intestinal lining and into the blood stream. When the tight junctions become weakened, bacteria, pathogens and toxins are able to pass between the epithelial cells, which is a condition called leaky gut. This can be caused by heat stress, bacteria, feed contaminants or a zinc deficiency.

Leaky gut can result in cell damage or intestinal inflammation as a reaction of the immune system’s reaction. When inflammation occurs, the body’s immune system will require more nutrients to combat the challenge, leaving less nutrients available for performance including muscle growth in the animal. Supplementing poultry diets with zinc from Availa® Zn can help manage inflammation by strengthening the bonds between the epithelial cells in the GI tract and maintaining tight junctions.

A summary of 23 trials showed intestinal strength was enhanced by more than 15 percent in poultry supplemented with zinc, manganese, or a combination of both from Zinpro Performance Minerals vs. poultry diets supplemented with inorganic (sulfate) forms of the same minerals.

Decreased Skin Scratches in Broilers

Exterior epithelial tissue, or skin, protects broilers from disease by acting as a physical barrier between the bird and its environment. When the skin of a bird is scratched, it is more susceptible to a bacterial infection that can impact the overall wellness of the bird and result in a carcass condemnation.

Skin is dependent on zinc to help protect against bacteria and physical damage. Research at Auburn University  revealed that the proportion of skin lesions in poultry decreased from 42.7 percent to 9.6 percent in broilers fed zinc from Availa® Zn instead of inorganic zinc sulfate. The proportion of broilers with cellulitis declined from 52 percent to 40 percent and the incidence of severe cellulitis declined from 20 to 8 percent in broilers fed zinc from Availa-Zn.

Research has shown that feeding zinc from Availa-Zn can improve broiler skin integrity by helping to reduce the incidence of sores, scabs, scratches and pododermatitis in chickens. This results in less potential for carcass condemnation and more meat to sell.

To learn about including performance trace minerals as a part of your poultry nutrition program to help reduce leaky gut, manage inflammation and strengthen poultry skin integrity, download the Poultry Skin: Barrier and Healing research summary or the “Epithelium: The First Line of Defense” white paper.