Vertical transmission of gut bacteria in commercial chickens is limited

Naama Shterzer, Nir Rothschild, Yara Sbehat, Jonathan Dayan, Dor Eytan, Zehava Uni, Erez Mills*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The existence of vertical transmission in chickens under commercial settings, where chicks are raised separately from adults, is unclear. To answer this question, the fecal microbiota of chicks hatched and grown separately was compared with their mothers’ microbiota. Most amplicon sequence variants (ASVs) identified in hens were not detected at all in chicks up to two weeks of age by 16S rDNA sequencing, and those that were detected had a low incidence among the chicks. Nevertheless, a few ASVs that were common with the hens were highly prevalent among the chicks, implying that they were efficiently transmitted to chicks. These ASVs were culturable from the reproductive tract of hens and eggshells. Furthermore, interventions attempting to disrupt transmission resulted in a reduction in the prevalence of specific phylogenetic groups in chicks. To conclude, vertical transmission in commercial poultry grown separately from adults likely exists but is not efficient, possibly resulting in impairment of microbiota function. This implies that artificial exposure to adult bacterial strains might improve microbiota functioning.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number50
JournalAnimal Microbiome
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

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© 2023, BioMed Central Ltd.


  • Chick colonization
  • Chicken
  • Gut microbiota
  • Interventions
  • Vertical transmission


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