Steering animal health on multiple levels

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Steering animal health on multiple levels


Ellen Van Meenen, Technical Communication Manager, Nuscience, Belgium


According to a recent study, the continued rise of antibiotic resistance would lead in 2050 to 10 million people dying every year. Nuscience's commitment to sustainability begins with the idea that animal and human health are profoundly connected. Lowering antibiotic use in the feed industry will indisputable reduce the risk for antibiotic resistance and thus safeguard human health. For this reason many of our research fronts focus on finding innovative substances to lower infection pressure and promote animal health.

The importance of a healthy gut cannot be underestimated. The gut surface of a pig for example is 200 times higher than the skin. And this surface has an extremely difficult and contradictory function: absorbing nutrients as efficient as possible, while reducing the entrance of noxious substances as much as possible. As the gut contains in fact 10 times more bacteria than the number of body cells, this is an extremely difficult task! In this way it is not strange that 20-35% of the energy- and amino acid requirements of the pig go to the gut. As 70% of the immune cells are concentrated around the gut, it is clear that gut health is also essential to improve immunity of the animals.

Multi hurdle approach

In the low pH environment of the stomach, un-dissociated medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) are capable of penetrating the phospholipid bilayer of the bacterial cell membrane, thereby destabilizing it. Inside the near-neutral environment of the bacterial cell, dissociation of MCFA molecules results in acidification and killing of the bacterium. MCFA not only show lower minimal inhibitory concentrations when compared to SCFA and LCFA, the free MCFA also provide an early pathogen barrier already in the stomach of the animal, compared to medium chain triglycerides (MCT) which only release free MCFA in the intestinal tract by gut lipases.

As a second barrier, MCFA can have a dramatic effect on pathogen persistence at intestinal level. By reducing the virulence of bacterial pathogens, such as Salmonella, intestinal and systemic colonization is reduced, as shown in scientific trials. The beneficial microbial ecosystem as a result from the antibacterial actions ensures a higher villus/crypt ratio favoring the digestive and absorptive capacities of the intestines.

Combining MCFA with INSOLFI, a specific soluble non-fermentable fiber, can raise a third hurdle. This fiber captures remaining pathogens by agglutination. The resulting fibre-pathogen agglomerate is simply washed out from the body.


A meta-analysis at the University of Wageningen (van Krimpen et al., 2014) showed that over a 15 year period, Aromabiotic®-MCFA was the only tested feed additive with a significant effect on veterinary treatments of non digestive disorders like respiratory problems. This improved animal health has been confirmed in numerous field trials with pigs, poultry as well as cattle. 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 which will act much faster and stronger against pathogens entering via other pathways like lungs or tonsils.

Knowing this, further research was performed on the supportive effect of Aromabiotic® against viruses like Porcine reproductive & respiratory syndrome (PRRS). In this trial the piglets were divided in two groups. The control group, and a group receiving Aromabiotic at 3kg/ton. Blood samples were taken at weaning, 30 days after weaning and 60 days after weaning. These samples were analysed on PRRS with a real-time PCR method and an Elisa for PRRS (Figure 1).



Figure 1:  Aromabiotic MCFA inhibit PRRSV in piglets after weaning

Both PCR and Elisa analysis showed simular results: no PRRS could be detected in the Arombiotic group, while in the control group (low) levels of positive samples were detected at day 30 and 60. In this trial Aromabiotic was clearly able to reduce the % of positive blood samples. More research is needed to unravel the exact mode of action.

Direct Antiviral activity of MCFA's explored

The antiviral effect was further investigated by the Nuscience R&D team, and this research showed that after incubating encapsulated viruses with Aromabiotic® MCFA, those viruses lost their ability to infect macrophages in vitro. The capsule of most of these viruses has a structure similar to the membrane of bacteria. So it is our hypothesis that MCFA can destabilize this membrane in the same way they are destabilizing the bacterial membrane. The capsule of these viruses contains most of the virulence factors responsible for causing the disease. A considerable amount of the upcoming viral disease in animal husbandry like PRRS, PED and Influenza are encapsulated viruses.

Importance of young animal nutrition

Functional feed ingredients like medium chain fatty acids are indispensable to support the health status of fast growing animals. However the foundation for a healthy growth is laid with effective young animal nutrition concepts. Only then the complete genetic potential can be unlocked. Nuscience has a long-lasting experience with prestarter feeds for piglets, calves and day-old chicks. These feeds are characterised by their exceptional taste and attractivity, increasing the feed intake of young animals to the highest level. In piglets, research has for example shown that the earlier the piglets receive creep feed, the higher their feed intake before weaning. Starting to feed the piglets 4 days earlier, can result in a 25 % higher feed intake of the piglets by the age of 16 days. So it is very important to provide the piglets with a tastefull creep feed as soon as possible after the colostrum intake. As shown in figure 2, this early feed intake has a huge influence on post-weaning performances.


Figure 2:  The effect of the creep feed Babito®  on weight evolution in piglets.

Creating a high quality prestarter feed can only be achieved by a profound selection on raw material quality and digestibility, and the experience of searching and combining synergistic raw materials and feed additives.  Figure 3 shows that Rumito Start, a high quality calf starter feed containing medium chain fatty acids (Aromabiotic® Cattle) not only has a positive effect on average daily gain by increasing feed intake but also reduced the number of veterinary treatments needed.

Effective young animal nutrition in combination with the health supporting innovative substances like MCFA and INSOLFI ensure promotion of animal health and thus lower the risk for antibiotic resistance. 


Figure 3:  Rumito Start containing Aromabiotic Cattle improves both animal growth and animal health.



For more of the article, please click here.


Article made possible through the contribution of Ellen Van Meenen and Nuscience

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