[INTERVIEW] Holistic Nutrition, a Means to Reduce Variability of Probiotic Efficacy

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) recently issued a report on the production, impact and regulation of probiotics for animal nutrition (entitled “Probiotics in Animal Nutrition”). However, due to a lack of comprehensive and consolidated scientific information on the impact of probiotics on animals, uncertainty continues to linger with regard to the efficacy and safety of probiotics. In a nutshell, they are viewed as efficacious but their efficacy can be highly variable. Moreover, probiotics alone cannot be simple substitutes to Antibiotic Growth Promoters (AGPs) as they do not provide the same results as AGPs.

Feedinfo News Service turned to BIOMIN - who not only manufactures the established poultry industry probiotic PoultryStar®, but also offers a more holistic natural additives approach, utilizing other supporting additives such as phytogenics and organic acids in combination with its probiotic product – to get a better understanding of the matter.

Dr. Daniel Petri, Global Product Manager Microbials, BIOMIN

Dr. Daniel Petri, who has recently joined BIOMIN as Global Product Manager Microbials, and with previous career experience accumulated at several industry players in the probiotics field, provided his opinion on the conclusions of the FAO report and on the advantages of the holistic approach when it comes to feeding animals probiotics.

[Feedinfo News Service] Dr. Petri, the FAO argues that the impact of probiotics on feed intake and feed use efficiency has not been consistent across studies or with different probiotics. Moreover, their effects on carcass quality and yield are inconclusive. How is BIOMIN trying to resolve these issues?

[Daniel Petri] Consistency is the biggest concern of the livestock industry in general right now, and rightly so. There remains a lot to understand about the gut microbiome and animal performance. Using advanced techniques we can find certain enteric microbial groups associated with well performing animals in early stages, while later on the same groups are associated with poor performing animals. What is needed is a fuller picture of the microbiome and how it relates not just to animal health but more importantly to animal performance. Once those tools are established, then verifiable models can be built with practical application for the industry. At BIOMIN, we are actively working on these issues and looking how to optimize our existing portfolio. Furthermore, we are already working with the so-called Omics technologies to further advance scientific understanding in this regard.

[Feedinfo News Service] The FAO says further study is required on the effect, mechanism of action and safety of probiotics, to obtain consistent effects and a similar economic benefit to AGPs. What is BIOMIN's opinion?

[Daniel Petri] We agree in the sense that a probiotic alone — while adequate to support animal production in many cases— cannot consistently deliver the same results as AGPs. Replacing AGPs in livestock production opens up considerable complexity in terms of species, climate, production stage, production system and geography. What is needed therefore is a customizable solution that can accommodate all of these factors—and this can be done by identifying the right combination of mycotoxin deactivator, probiotic, phytogenic and/or organic-acid based products that deliver the right results in a given situation. We’re conducting considerable work in this regard, with multiple commercial trials and proprietary research, not only focusing on replacing AGPs, but generally addressing antibiotic-free feeding.

For example, in a recent commercial trial in New Zealand we devised a novel growth promotion solution for a high performing broiler farm that had already used Mycofix® to counteract mycotoxins. In the trial we used Digestarom® to reinforce the mucosa in the lumen and improve feed efficiency, and PoultryStar® to stabilize the epithelial and cecal microbiota and properly set up the birds’ immune systems, while still using the farm’s existing multiple AGP regimen. The combination resulted in improved performance and significant positive return on investment, indicating as mentioned above that opportunities to improve performance even in high producing flocks and AGP use are possible with the appropriate strategy.

At the same time, other factors sometimes require different products with their own modes of action. A Gram-negative pathogen challenged production environment would be best addressed by a combination that includes Biotronic® Top3 with, or in some cases, without the probiotic, depending on the circumstances and cost benefit considerations. However, PoultryStar alone has shown that it can prevent Salmonella colonization in the ceca of birds, if correctly applied.

[Feedinfo News Service] The FAO states that claims made by commercial probiotic producers are often difficult to substantiate due to variation in animal species and husbandry practices and lack of scientific publications regarding probiotic products. Is this true for BIOMIN's PoultryStar product line?

[Daniel Petri] We have a long list of scientific and field trial publications available, both with and without BIOMIN involvement, showing the benefits of PoultryStar®. The EU authorization of PoultryStar® further affirms the product’s safety and effectiveness. It is a complex synbiotic product backed by significant scientific research designed to deliver beneficial live bacteria essential for the bird’s development to the relevant parts of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). Nutritionists and veterinarians in particular tend to value the strong scientific foundation along with the performance improvements that PoultryStar® delivers.

The whole discussion around variability is an important topic. It requires being able to demonstrate activity of the additive in the animal against the backdrop of background bacteria that naturally occurs in the feed. In a number of countries, including the US, China, and India, there are lots of products put on the market without much research or substantiation of claims, which degrades the reputation of direct-fed microbials generally. There is a need to rebuild trust in such places and communicate on scientific findings. Last but not least, running the appropriate studies in order to realistically demonstrate the probiotic effect is difficult, as this requires know-how that not every research facility can provide.

[Feedinfo News Service] Many probiotics producers advocate AGP replacement using Bacillus probiotics. What is your opinion?

[Daniel Petri] Bacillus products represent a twenty year-old technology that happens to be experiencing a revival—largely due to the benefits for probiotic producers, not necessarily their clients. Furthermore, there is an ongoing discussion about the efficacy of B. subtilis versus B. amyloliquefaciens. Both species are genetically very similar and can often not be distinguished with traditional or simple molecular genetic analytical tools. New technologies now allow us to correctly identify each species, leading to a need to update or review regulations in some places. This is important, since Bacillus amyloliquefaciens is not yet positive listed as a direct-fed microbial in the US in the AAFCO Official Publication, but its derived enzymes are. Therefore local hurdles for use in some countries remain.

From a health perspective, Bacillus is not crucial for the development of birds. It is a transient organism, as per the FAO report, that does not attach to the cell surface and therefore has limited interaction. In most cases, a good portion of the performance benefits can be attributed to the enzymes Bacillus produce—even though enzymes can be applied directly at a much lower cost. In addition, it’s provided in spore form, while tested in vitro as a vegetative cell, leaving it still to be defined as to when and in which quantity germination in the GIT actually happens. There are limited publications in this area, indicating that many cells remain spores or complete the lifecycle quickly and become spores. This research is also vastly limited due to technological hurdles.

As we are dealing with the food and feed chain, it is important to find solutions that are safe and cost-effective. There is a complex microbiology at work related to feed efficiency –the science continues to advance on the topic– and what we know today is that livestock producers gain tangible benefits from a complex ‘from birds to birds’ product like PoultryStar® that delivers the right beneficial strains to specific sections of the GIT where they are most useful, then supporting the probiotic with fructooligosaccharides to ensure that beneficial microbiota thrive and best serve the host animal. This synbiotic concept and targeted mode of action represents a level of sophistication yet to be reached with a Bacillus-based product.

[Feedinfo News Service] What advantages do multi-species probiotics have?

[Daniel Petri] First, I would highlight that multi-species probiotics can be divided into two categories: unspecific/undefined and specific/well-defined. Unspecific multi-species products have gained a certain reputation in preventive application or Salmonella control, but they may bear other risks due to the fact that undefined fermentation could incur multiplication of viruses or resistance genes that by definition cannot be controlled. So again, safety is a consideration.

At BIOMIN, we focus on well-defined multi-species probiotics that target colonization of the GIT by strains that are essential to animals’ gut health. Take a look at the strains in PoultryStar®. The Enterococcus strain is from the avian jejunum, the major site for nutrient uptake, which is the weakest point in a birds’ natural defense system due to the thinness of the mucosal barrier. The immunomodulatory Bifidobacterium strain is from the ileum, where the bird’s Peyer’s patches are responsible for setting up the adaptive immune response. Bifidobacteria in particular are promoted due to prebiotic fructooligosaccharides (FOS) in the product. Pediococcus and Lactobacillus strains colonize the cecum and prevent harmful bacteria such as Campylobacter and Salmonella from taking hold, where FOS also promotes further balance in the hindgut.

The advantages of using a mix of strains including lactic acid bacteria, hinge on the fact that they colonize the GIT and are essential for good gut health. Consequently, they are able to support less reliance on antibiotics, better uniformity, fewer condemnations, lower mortality and subsequently, consistently good performance.

[Feedinfo News Service] This time last year, PoultryStar's approval at EU level was extended to chickens reared for laying and minor avian species other than laying species. How has the product fared in the market since then?

[Daniel Petri] Since PoultryStar® was introduced, worldwide sales have doubled each year. We have built on this success, and clients can now use PoultryStar® for organic production, along with the choice of water or in-feed application. We are currently working on post-pellet application and already have plans underway to expand production.

At the upcoming EuroTier we will introduce a new hatchery application which really goes to the heart of the innovation PoultryStar® represents, and we are grateful for the recognition by the Innovation Award Committee in this regard, having been shortlisted for a medal this year. Modern production setups leave chicks with immature immune systems, and PoultryStar® quickly establishes a healthy gut microbiome and supports immune development. It is particularly relevant in the context of antibiotic reduction. Furthermore, we have seen strong demand for PoultryStar® in turkeys as well. We are actively pursuing registration extension in the EU, and have already completed two successful registration trials.

[Feedinfo News Service] What is next on BIOMIN's agenda in terms of raising further awareness of the benefits of synbiotics and holistic, multi-product feeding strategies?

[Daniel Petri] The practical results of our research will go into our solution concepts that enable customers to combine the right products to get the desired outcome. We will continue to examine antibiotic resistance, antibiotic-free feeding regimes and the need to address the preventative use of antibiotics in livestock production. One key point is to look at antibiotic reduction in the production system as a whole, considering differences in species, production stages, environmental conditions, etc. The latest trend is to scrutinize the use of coccidiostats and we have been looking into coccidiostat-free solutions. We have already documented the effect of PoultryStar® in alleviating the negative impact of coccidiosis, and a more detailed approach with a combination of additives is probably the way forward. We will continue to invest heavily in this topic with existing products and concepts to be defined in the future.

This interview was first published on www.feedinfo.com.