SUMMARY.

Challenge models are needed to understand the pathogenesis of necrotic enteritis (NE) and provide the basis of evaluating nonantibiotic feed-additive interventions. In the category of nonantibiotic feed additives, the application of probiotics to improve intestinal health and growth performance of broiler chickens in the face of an NE challenge has been well described. However, it is crucial to evaluate the consistency of specific probiotics for mitigating the disease challenge and improving performance. Therefore, a meta-analysis of five independent research trials was conducted with the objective of evaluating the effect of Bacillus subtilis DSM 32315 (probiotic) on body weight gain (BWG), feed conversion ratio (FCR), NE mortality, and lesion score (LS) of broiler chickens challenged with NE. These independent studies were conducted in three countries (the United States, Thailand, and Finland). The statistical analysis used fixed and random effects to estimate the mean effect size (MES) of the difference between NE-challenged birds (control) and NE-challenged probiotic-fed birds and the 95% confidence interval of MES. A meta-regression was performed to evaluate heterogeneity (MES variance) among studies. The statistical analysis was performed using a robust variance estimation strategy with a SAS macro. Probiotic-supplemented birds had a significantly higher BWG (MES = 1.04, P = 0.009) and a significantly lower FCR (MES = –1.39, P = 0.020), NE mortality (MES = –1.15, P = 0.012), and LS (MES = –1.29, P = 0.045). Response variables of BWG (Q = 2.81, P = 0.560) and NE mortality (Q = 5.60, P = 0.354) did not present heterogeneity. Heterogeneity was found for FCR (Q = 10.34, P = 0.035) and LS (Q = 16.13, P = 0.001). Overall, dietary supplementation of B. subtilis DSM 32315 significantly improved BWG and reduced FCR, mortality, and LS in a repeatable large-scale manner.

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