Probiotics for health management

In the aquatic world, potential pathogens are able to maintain themselves in the external environment of the animal (water) and proliferate independently of the host animal. These potential pathogens are taken up constantly by the animal through the processes of osmoregulation and feeding.

Based on the intricate relationship of aquatic organisms with their external environment, probiotics in aquaculture are defined as live microbial adjuncts that exert beneficial effects on the host y one or more of these mechanisms:

  1. Modifying the host-associated or ambient microbial community
  2. Ensuring improved feed use by enhancing its nutritional value
  3. Enhancing the host defense against diseases
  4. Improving the quality of its ambient environment.

Modifying the ambient microbial community

Once established in the gut, probiotic bacteria can produce extracellular enzymes that improve digestion or aid in pathogen defense by producing inhibitory compounds. The prerequisite for any direct beneficial effect in the host is the establishment of the probiotic bacteria as part of the indigenous gut microbiota.

Figure 1 demonstrates that in juvenile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), the application of AquaStar® Growout led to an efficient colonization of the gut. AquaStar® bacteria (green) were detected over two weeks after the end of the probiotic treatment, although at rapidly declining levels.

Figure 1. Microbiota composition of tilapia before (left) and after (right) supplementation with AquaStar® Growout at a dosage of 5kg/tonne feed for 8 weeks. The initial weight of the fish was 55 ± 1g. AquaStar® probiotic strains are shown in different shades of green. Figures are in %.

As intestinal bacteria proliferate in the gut, they improve the nutrient utilization and lead to better nitrogen retention in the body. Probiotics reduce the nitrate content of feces and the impact on the environment through lower waste discharge. It is likely that the environmental benefits also extend to the quality and quantity of the phytoplankton populations in the pond.

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Improved feed value

Several probiotic strains produce digestive enzymes, thus facilitating feed utilization and digestion. As a result, growth performance is improved. Figure 2 shows tilapia growth parameters after supplemention with AquaStar® Growout. The average weight as well as specific growth rate (SGR) increased significantly. Protein efficiency ratio (PER) was higher and feed conversion ratio (FCR) improved.

Figure 2. Tilapia growth performance over 6 weeks, with and without AquaStar® Growout supplementation.

Enhancing the immune response

Fish immune cells do not need priming. The immediately release ctykines that kill infected target cells. Probiotic organism can stimulate this innate immune response as demonstrated in Table 1 and Figure 3. A higher level of intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs) suggests an elevated localized immunological response (Table 1). 

Table 1. The effect of Fusarium mycotoxins on the intestinal epithelium.

Table 1. Light micrographs of the mid-intestine of tilapia fed either the control (A & B) or Aquastar® (C & D) diet after 8 weeks of experimental feeding. Abundant IELs are present in the epithelia and a distinct sub-population of acidophilic granulocytes (stained pink) are scattered in the mucosa. Light microscopy staining: A & C: H & E; B & D: Alcian-Blue-PAS stained. Scale bars = 100µm. IELs: Intra-epithelial lymphocytes

The gut mucosa is the first line of defense