Overly Theoretical? Or a Valuable Science?
Gut health is key to animal performance – intestinal immunity and the intestinal barrier function are known to influence about three-quarters of an animal’s total immunity.
With the shift away from antibiotic growth promoters, holistic approaches to animal husbandry have put the focus on improved farm management and biosecurity, along with the potential benefits of novel growth promoters. To understand what happens at the cellular level, animal science has turned to the “Omics” – an emerging field of technologies such as genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics. These so-called omicstechnologies have been applied to the study of antibiotic resistance and the effects of novel growth promoters on multi-resistance bacteria for instance. When gut health is compromised by poor nutrition or disease challenges, the animal’s immune system kicks into gear, a biological response that diverts precious energy and nutrients – as much as 10% – away from growth performance.
By allowing animal performance parameters to be clearly linked to specific biological pathways through their related genes or proteins, the Omics open new frontiers linking veterinary health and animal nutrition. It also offers new ways of understanding how feed additives act in the gut and hence, their measurable effect on animal growth and maintenance.
Designing Novel Growth Promoters
Feed substances that contribute to inflammation control work by suppressing inflammatory responses, thereby allowing animals to channel greater energies towards weight gain.
Well-regulated inflammatory responses, gut health and growth performance go hand-in-hand. One reason for the success of AGPs such as cyclines and macrolides lies in their anti-inflammatory mechanisms. In vivo tests of potentially interesting feed compounds that can prove to successfully down-regulate inflammatory parameters such as biomarkers in the serum, feces and the intestines, can aid in the discovery and development of truly effective NGPs. Given the importance of inflammation regulation for growth performance, designing novel growth promoters through rational design, rather than relying on trial and error, can provide the industry with truly effective feed solutions while weaning off reliance on antibiotics in the longer term.
Metagenomics: From Nutrition to Disease Prevention
The animal gut microbiome consists of the gut microorganisms as well as their genomes and genes.
Understanding the relationship between microbiome and the host is key to unlocking strategies to counter diseases and improve animal health. Studying this relationship would involve testing whole populations of microorganisms in their natural habitats. For this, researchers have turned to non-culture approaches, such as metagenomics sequencing. In animal health, metagenomic analysis can be used to determine and resolving resistance of infectious pathogens that reduce overall performance. By identifying genes and virulence pathways, and the interaction with environmental changes, metagenomics could also be used to predict disease susceptibility and drug responses, and potentially inform genetic selection so as to reduce the cost of vaccines and antibiotics.
Alessandra De Cesare
Congratulations to Dr. Rudolf Krska of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU), for his lifetime achievement in the field of mycotoxins research. Since 2013, Dr Krska is the most-cited author of scientific papers on the topic of mycotoxins in the past decade.
Global Food Security Threat
As the true scale of the mycotoxin threat to our food security becomes clearer, several trends point to a higher risk than ever before. Climate change, global trade in raw commodities and novel feed ingredients all contribute to greater mycotoxin contamination of feed. This, combined with the knowledge that even low levels of mycotoxins impair animal health and performance, deserve greater attention and further research.
Punch to the Gut
Combinations and low levels of mycotoxin contamination commonly found on farms can impair GIT functionality. Research suggests that AFLA, DON and FUM have an impact on gut barrier integrity, nutrient digestion and absorption, and gut immunity—predisposing animals to infection and performance loss. In light of this evidence, the link between mycotoxin ingestion and gut health merits a closer look.
BIOMIN has pioneered the development of feed additives containing microbial enzymes that act in the GI tract to convert mycotoxins to nontoxic metabolites. This technology is exemplified by FUMzyme®, the only EUregistered, mycotoxindegrading enzyme commercially available. Given the advantages of enzymatic detoxification, one can expect it to play a key role in increasing the value and safety of animal feed in the years to come.
There is an economic and moral obligation to address the crop losses due to mycotoxins in the context of chronic undernourishment among 12% of the world’s population. Advanced LC-MS/MS technologies mark significant progress in terms of mycotoxin analysis. Still, ‘masked’ and lesser known ‘emerging’ mycotoxins are coming to the fore. Metabolomic analyses and an integrated approach to mycotoxin risk management promise to shape the future.