Coccidial infections reduce fat-soluble vitamin status and bone mineralisation in broiler chickens. We hypothesised that broilers infected with Eimeria maxima would benefit from increased dietary supplementation with vitamin D (vitD) or with 25-hydroxycholecalciferol (25(OH)D3 or 25D3). Broilers were assigned to diets with low (L) or commercial (M) vitD levels (25 v. 100 μg/kg) supplemented as cholecalciferol (D3) or 25D3. At day 11 of age, birds were inoculated with water or 7000 E. maxima oocysts. Pen performance was calculated over the early (days 1–6), acute (days 7–10) and recovery periods (days 11–14) post-infection (pi). At the end of each period, six birds per treatment were dissected to assess long bone mineralisation, plasma levels of 25D3, Ca and P, and intestinal histomorphometry. Parasite replication and transcription of cytokines IL-10 and interferon-γ (IFN-γ) were assessed at day 6 pi using quantitative PCR. Performance, bone mineralisation and plasma 25D3 levels were significantly reduced during infection (P < 0·05). M diets or diets with 25D3 raised plasma 25D3, improved performance and mineralisation (P < 0·05). Offering L diets compromised feed efficiency pi, reduced femur breaking strength and plasma P levels at day 10 pi in infected birds (P < 0·05). Contrastingly, offering M diets or diets with 25D3 resulted in higher parasite loads (P < 0·001) and reduced jejunal villi length at day 10 pi (P < 0·01), with no effect on IL-10 or IFN-γ transcription. Diets with M levels or 25D3 improved performance and mineralisation, irrespective of infection, while M levels further improved feed efficiency and mineralisation in the presence of coccidiosis.
Sakkas, P., Oikeh, I., Blake, D., Smith, S., & Kyriazakis, I. (2019). Dietary vitamin D improves performance and bone mineralisation, but increases parasite replication and compromises gut health in Eimeria infected broilers. British Journal of Nutrition, 122, 678-688. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114519001375