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Animals 2019, 9(3), 86; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9030086

Intestinal Morphometry, Enzymatic and Microbial Activity in Laying Hens Fed Different Levels of a Hermetia illucens Larvae Meal and Toxic Elements Content of the Insect Meal and Diets

1
Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Sassari, Via Vienna 2, 07100 Sassari, Italy
2
Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Production, University of Napoli Federico II, via F. Delpino 1, 80137 Naples, Italy
3
Department of AgriFood, Environment and Animal Science, University of Udine, via Sondrio, 2, 33100 Udine, Italy
4
Department of Life and Environmental Sciences, University Politecnica delle Marche, via Brecce Bianche, 60131 Ancona, Italy
5
Faculty of Agricultural Engineering and Veterinary Medicine, Lebanese University, Beirut, Lebanon
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 11 February 2019 / Revised: 1 March 2019 / Accepted: 4 March 2019 / Published: 10 March 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Insects: Alternative Protein Source for Animal Feed)
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Simple Summary

Recently, several studies have focused on the use of insect larvae meal as an alternative to soybean meal in poultry diets. In this regard, it is crucial to understand all the possible aspects related to the chemical-nutritional characteristics, the effects on the animals’ health and welfare, and the safety of different insect meals. This study aimed to evaluate volatile fatty acids production in the caeca, the intestinal morphometry, and the brush border enzymatic activity of hens fed different levels of Hermetia illucens (Linnaeus) (Diptera: Stratiomyidae) larvae meal for 24 weeks. The research also aimed to contribute to the knowledge of the concentration of toxic elements in insect meals. Overall, the insect meal inclusion affected the small intestine morphometry, the enzymatic activity, and the caecal microbial activity. The soybean meal group showed the highest intestinal functionality, while a compensatory mechanism, probably mediated by the chitin, led to a positive increase of volatile fatty acids and butyrate in the 50% protein replacement diet with potential positive effects on gut healthiness. The levels of toxic elements in the diets and insect meal were lower than the maximum levels of heavy metals set by the EU Commission for the feed.

Abstract

To evaluate the effects of feeding a Hermetia illucens (HI) larvae meal on the different intestinal traits of hens, and to determine the toxic elements’ concentration in the insect meal and diets, 162 hens were randomly allotted to three groups. The control received a corn-soybean meal-based diet (SBM); the HI25 and HI50 groups received two diets in which the 25% and 50% of the dietary protein were replaced by the HI protein, respectively. The duodenal and jejunal villi height and villi/crypt were higher (p < 0.01) in the SBM than in the HI groups. The ileal villi height was higher (p < 0.05) in the SBM and HI25 groups than the HI50. The HI50 group exhibited a lower duodenal maltase activity. The intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP) activity linearly decreased in the duodenum and jejunum as the dietary insect meal inclusion increased. The HI50 group had a higher acetate and butyrate level than the SBM. The levels of cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), and arsenic (As) in the diets and insect meal were lower than the maximum values established by the EU Commission. The 25% soybean protein replacement with Hermetia illucens larvae meal in the diet of laying hens was more suitable and closer to the optimal level than 50%. View Full-Text
Keywords: Hermetia illucens larvae meal; volatile fatty acids; intestinal villi height and villi/crypt ratio; brush border enzymes; intestinal alkaline phosphatase; trace elements; laying hens Hermetia illucens larvae meal; volatile fatty acids; intestinal villi height and villi/crypt ratio; brush border enzymes; intestinal alkaline phosphatase; trace elements; laying hens
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Moniello, G.; Ariano, A.; Panettieri, V.; Tulli, F.; Olivotto, I.; Messina, M.; Randazzo, B.; Severino, L.; Piccolo, G.; Musco, N.; Addeo, N.F.; Hassoun, G.; Bovera, F. Intestinal Morphometry, Enzymatic and Microbial Activity in Laying Hens Fed Different Levels of a Hermetia illucens Larvae Meal and Toxic Elements Content of the Insect Meal and Diets. Animals 2019, 9, 86.

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