An experiment was undertaken to evaluate the effect of dietary selenium (Se) levels on growth performance and immune competence of broilers under heat stress. Birds were raised in either a thermoneutral (TN, 23.9 degrees C constant) or heat stress conditions (HS, 23.9 degrees C to 38 degrees C cycling) and were fed a corn-soybean meal basal diet supplemented with Se at 0, 0.2 and 0.4 mg/kg. A total of 240 one-day-old male broiler chicks were randomly assigned to six groups; each group had four replicates of 10 birds. Body weight and feed intake were not influenced by dietary Se, while feed conversion was significantly improved by a Se-supplementation of 0.2 mg/kg. HS significantly reduced body weight, feed intake and feed conversion. Numbers of abdominal exudate cells (AEC), percentage of macrophages in AEC, phagocytic macrophages, internalized opsonised and unopsonised sheep red blood cells (SRBC) were significantly increased by dietary Se. Both primary and secondary antibody responses were characterised by increasing titres of antibody to SRBC by dietary Se when birds were exposed to HS (p < 0.05). Lymphoid organ weights, antibody responses, incidence of macrophages in AEC, and phagocytic ability of macrophages were also significantly reduced under HS. These results indicated that HS severely reduced growth performance and immunocompetence of broilers, whereas the immune response of broilers improved by dietary Se supplementation under HS.
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