Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 344, Issue 1, pp 135–146 | Cite as

Effect of dietary alginic acid on juvenile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) intestinal microbial balance, intestinal histology and growth performance

  • Daniel L. Merrifield
  • Glenn M. Harper
  • Sanaa Mustafa
  • Oliana Carnevali
  • Simona Picchietti
  • Simon J. Davies
Regular Article


The aim of the present study was to assess the effect of a commercial alginic acid source (Ergosan) on tilapia Oreochromis niloticus intestinal microbial balance, intestinal morphology, and growth parameters. Fish were fed a basal control diet or the basal diet plus a source of alginic acid (5 g kg-1 Ergosan; Schering-Plough Aquaculture, UK) for 9 weeks. At the end of the trial, light and electron microscopy demonstrated that the morphology of the intestinal tract at the gross and ultra-structural level was not affected by dietary alginic acid inclusion. Both groups of fish displayed healthy, normal morphology with no signs of disease, cell or tissue damage. Intestinal epithelial leucocyte infiltration was not affected by dietary alginic acid. Molecular bacterial profiles derived from PCR-DGGE illustrated highly similar microbial communities (both within the lumen and associated with the intestinal mucosa) in the respective treatment groups. Microbial ecological parameters (e.g. species diversity and richness) also remained unaffected. Although not significant, trends towards elevated survival and body protein content were observed in the alginic acid-fed fish. These results are suggestive that alginic acid does not adversely impact the indigenous gastrointestinal microbial balance and subsequently does not impact upon the epithelial brush border integrity. Validation of non-detrimental impacts of immunostimulatory products on gastric microbiota and epithelial integrity should be pursued in future studies as maintaining microbial balance and epithelial integrity is essential for proper gut functionality.


Gut microbiota DGGE Alginic acid Ultra histology Intestine 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel L. Merrifield
    • 1
  • Glenn M. Harper
    • 2
  • Sanaa Mustafa
    • 1
  • Oliana Carnevali
    • 3
  • Simona Picchietti
    • 4
  • Simon J. Davies
    • 1
  1. 1.Aquaculture and Fish Nutrition Research Group, School of Biomedical and Biological SciencesThe University of PlymouthPlymouthUK
  2. 2.Electron Microscopy CentreUniversity of PlymouthPlymouthUK
  3. 3.Department of Marine SciencesPolytechnic University of MarcheAnconaItaly
  4. 4.Department Environmental SciencesTuscia UniversityViterboItaly

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