Egg Yolk Antibodies; an Alternative to Antibiotics?
Antimicrobials have been used in the poultry industry
for growth promotion, disease prevention, and treatment of infections for many
years. However, evidence is mounting that resistant bacteria or resistance
determinants might be passed from animals to humans. This situation has put a
lot of pressure on the poultry industry to withdraw or limit antibiotic use
in animal feed and to look for viable alternatives. (Comments
have been used in the poultry industry for growth
promotion (sub-therapeutic doses), disease prevention (prophylactic doses), and
treatment of infections for many years. Microbiological and clinical evidence is
mounting that resistant bacteria or resistance determinants might be passed from
animals to humans, resulting in infections that are more difficult to treat.
This situation has put tremendous pressure on the poultry industry to withdraw
or limit antibiotic use in animal feed and to look for viable alternatives.
Egg yolk antibodies
Oral immunotherapy (passive immunization) with specific antibodies is a
strategy that has been actively pursued in laboratory and clinical studies for
the last two decades. Feeding of specific egg yolk antibodies
to neutralize pathogens especially
enteric microorganisms is one of the potential alternatives to antibiotics. Oral
administration of these antibodies has had some degree of success in
prevention of viral and bacterial enteric infections in humans, piglets, calves,
Applications in poultry
Where do we go from here?
There are still many obstacles which make oral administration of antibodies
in commercial poultry a difficult goal to achieve. Getting approval from
regulatory authorities, cost of production of antibodies in large scale,
stability of these substances in poultry feed and gastrointestinal tract,
specificity of these antibodies against field pathogens (as pathogens constantly
evolve) are a few of these obstacles. The current trend in the industry is to
move from treatment to prevention. Disease prevention is a complicated process
with multiple determinants, and alternatives to antibiotics could be part of
this. Solid biosecurity measures will remain as a very important part of disease
Do you think that egg yolk antibodies have any potential as an alternative
to antibiotics? Do you see any possibility for these compounds to become
commercially available in different parts of the world? Let's discuss our
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