New prebiotic insight - protecting birds from Salmonella
Studies are currently underway to investigate the use
of galacto-oligosaccharide prebiotics to protect animals from Salmonella
infection and other food poisoning bacteria.
The sugars, called galacto-oligosaccharides, and are already known to
improve the health of breast-fed infants. Researchers are now looking at using
these prebiotics in place of antibiotics in poultry and livestock to reduce the
chances of Salmonella bacteria damaging the gut during a food poisoning episode,
reducing the overall damage and severity of the infection.
"Antibiotics are used to treat particularly severe Salmonella infections,â€
says Laura Searle from the Veterinary Laboratories Agency in the UK. â€œBut their
effectiveness has been undermined by their systematic use both as growth
promoters in animals and as therapeutic agents, which has been implicated in
widespread antibiotic resistance. In an attempt to overcome this problem the EU
banned the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in 2006, so now alternatives
are urgently being investigated.â€
How it works
One possibility is to use prebiotics made from natural complex sugars that
are already known to improve gastrointestinal health. There have been many
theories put forward about the way they actually work, including the suggestion
that they may stimulate our natural gut bacteria to multiply, allowing them to
fight off invading pathogens trying to colonise.
The Veterinary Laboratories Agency has initiated a project to demonstrate
the exact mechanism for the apparent success of a novel galacto-oligosaccharide
mixture. Their studies have now shown that the specific mixture protects animals
from infection by reducing the invasion capabilities of Salmonella, and lowering
the seriousness of disease symptoms. After treatment with this mixture, fewer
Salmonella bacteria were found in systemic and intestinal tissues.
Used on farm level
â€œThe next step will be to see if the novel galacto-oligosaccharide mixture
can be used in farm livestock successfully, and whether it is still as effective
when given before a Salmonella infection, protecting the animals in advance. We
also need to see if it can protect against other pathogens,â€ Searle
Veterinary scientists hope that their tests will prove whether it is
actually successful in farm animals, reducing gastrointestinal infections,
improving animal health and cutting economic losses. The scientists need to now
discover the exact mechanisms by which the sugars work.
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