Aromabiotic Poultry - medium chain fatty acids in the battle against antimicrobial resistance

Friday, February 17, 2017

Aromabiotic® Poultry - medium chain fatty acids in the battle against antimicrobial resistance


Manu De Laet, Product Manager Poultry, Nuscience



In 2006, 96% of the birds slaughtered worldwide were given antibiotics somewhere in their lifetime. There is a global concern and even demand to reduce the antibiotic use in poultry and in this way reduce the risk for antimicrobial resistance. Medium chain fatty acids make it possible to reduce the use of antibiotics without compromising bird performance and food safety.


Consequences of antimicrobial resistance


Antimicrobial resistance is a global problem. New resistance mechanisms emerge and spread globally threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases, resulting in death and disability of individuals who until recently could continue a normal course of life. With the increasing resistance, many standard medical treatments will fail. Antimicrobial resistance also increases health care costs because of more expensive therapies, in case first-line antibiotics don't work.


Infections caused by resistant microorganisms often even fail to respond to the standard treatment, and can result into death. According to the "Review on Antimicrobial Resistance", published in 2014, 700 000 people per year die from antimicrobial resistance nowadays. If the global feed industry would continue to use antibiotics like nowadays, it is estimated that the number of deaths can increase until 10 million deaths per year in 2050. In that case, antimicrobial resistance would be the leading cause of death in the world (Figure 1).



Figure 1:  Prediction of antimicrobial resistance deaths in 2050 compared to other causes of death  (source: Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR))


Antimicrobial growth promotion in poultry production
Antibiotic use in animal production has been practiced for about 50 years. Most of this use of antibiotics is as antibiotic growth promoters (AGP's). AGP's are the antibiotics that are continuously used in poultry feed at a low level to improve growth and feed conversion and not for the purpose of any therapeutic reasons.
One of the major current benefits of AGP use may be maintaining animal health in older facilities, where hygiene management is less efficient. Farms that produce broilers with AGP's tend to have older houses, with less modern equipment, and are less likely to follow a plan for managing food safety hazards. AGP's may have smaller benefits when production conditions are optimized: researchers demonstrated significantly smaller response in chicks to AGP's in new environments compared to previously used environments (Coates et al, 1951).
An EU-wide ban on the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animal feed was entering into effect on January 1st, 2006. The ban is the final step in the phasing out of antibiotics used for non-medicinal purposes. In Europe, people had to take action to accomplish the challenge: building new adapted poultry houses with sufficient climate control, proper hygiene and biosecurity at the farm, and also nutrition and additives are adapted.

In the US, AGP's are not banned, but the FDA recently issued guidelines for the industry to voluntarily withdraw medically important antibiotics from growth promotion (FDA, 2013a). For policy makers, the challenge is to evaluate the benefits and costs of animal antibiotics to society. What is the economic value of antibiotics to the livestock industry versus the potential health cost of increasing resistance levels? What are the potential productivity and economic effects of a ban on AGP's for US meat producers and consumers? All these questions should be solved first, but nonetheless a ban on AGP's is expected in the US in 2017.


Aromabiotic® Poultry


Medium chain fatty acids (MCFA's) are already used for a long time as alternative to antibiotics in poultry nutrition. Thanks to its broad antimicrobial and immune supporting activity, Aromabiotic® Poultry has become one of the leading feed additives to reduce the use of preventive and growth promoting antibiotics.


In the low pH environment of the stomach, un-dissociated MCFA molecules are capable of penetrating the phospholipid bilayer of the bacterial cell membrane, thereby destabilizing it. Inside the bacterial cell, MCFA's encounter a near-neutral environment resulting in accumulation of dissociated MCFA molecules and protons in the bacterial cytoplasm. Intracellular acidification will eventually lead to killing of the bacterium. Aromabiotic MCFA's not only show lower minimal inhibitory concentrations when compared to SCFA and LCFA, the free MCFA provide an early pathogen barrier already in the stomach of the animal, compared to MCFA esters and fat coated butyrates which only release their active components in the intestinal tract by gut lipases. The combination of these antibacterial actions will result in a beneficial microbial ecosystem and thus a higher villus/crypt ratio favoring the digestive and absorptive capacities of the intestines.


In addition to the antimicrobial effect, Aromabiotic® Poultry also has a positive effect on the animal's immunity. The first line defense against the pathogens are the neutrophils. These white blood cells will attack the pathogens and protect the animals from getting ill. In times of stress the white blood cells will suffer, and have a very short lifetime. By adding Aromabiotic to the feed, Piepers et. al (2013) showed that MCFA could prolonge the lifetime of the white blood cells which means that the blood will contain more viable white blood cells and consequently that the animals will be better protected.


Clostridium challenge


A recent trial confirmed again that MCFA's are the perfect alternative of AGP's. In a challenge trial, 900 "Cobb 500" birds (10 repetitions over 3 treatments, 30 birds per cage) were challenged with Clostridium perfringens. It is clear that the trial set up was successful since the performance of the birds is low and the mortality of the negative control group is around 9 %. That means that there was a clear induction of the Clostridium in the birds.


In a second and third treatment the effect of respectively AGP and Aromabiotic Poultry was tested. Both treatments significantly restored body weight and feed conversion. Mortality was reduced below 4% with AGP and even below 3% using Aromabiotic Poultry. The resulting European production efficiency factor (EPEF) of the birds who received Aromabiotic MCFA's was exactly the same as the EPEF of the birds who received the AGP program.


Next to the zootechnical performances also the lesion scores were measured at day 21. Again a comparable and significantly lower lesion score was obtained with both AGP and MCFA (Table 1).


Table 1:  Aromabiotic Poultry equals AGP's in a Clostridium challenge trial with broilers




Nuscience has a long lasting experience with the use of medium chain fatty acids to reduce antibiotic use. Thanks to this experience, Nuscience can advise feed millers and integrators on the efficient reduction of antibiotic use in poultry by the use of Aromabiotic Poultry MCFA's. In this way poultry performances can be improved, while the risk for antimicrobial resistance can be reduced.



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Article made possible through the contribution of Manu De Laet and Nuscience