Probiotics may offer alternative approach to antimicrobials

Research and innovation are key to finding alternatives to antibiotic and antimicrobial use. Researchers at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, are studying probiotics as an alternative to traditional antimicrobials to combat pathogens including Salmonella, Campylobacter jejuni, and Clostridium perfringens in poultry.

Over the last decade, Dr Shayan Sharif’s lab at the University of Guelph has been involved in developing probiotic formulations against Salmonella. “We’ve clearly shown by using combinations of different lactobacilli or lactic acid producing bacteria we can reduce colonisation or burden of salmonella in poultry quite significantly,” says Sharif. He is now turning his attention to Campylobacter jejuni, the main notifiable bacterial cause of human enteritis or foodborne illness reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Huge concern to human health

Chickens can carry Campylobacter in their intestine. While they don’t show any clinical signs of the disease they can carry it throughout their lifetime. It’s not necessarily a huge concern to the poultry industry because chickens are asymptomatic but a huge concern to human health, as the bacteria can be transferred to humans through undercooked poultry, adds Sharif. Few control measures, including vaccination, biosecurity or antibiotics, deter the bacteria. Of added concern, both Campylobacter jejeuni and Salmonella can harbour and transfer antimicrobial resistance genes.

Dr Sharif’s group is taking a systematic approach to identify and test commensal bacteria from healthy chickens that have anti-Campylobacter activities and also can enhance immune responsiveness in chickens. The goal is to use these bacteria alone or in combination with candidate vaccines for their efficacy against Campylobacter. His lab is also looking at in ovo injection of probiotics, usually on day 18 when the embryo is in the egg. Initial research suggests chicken embryos ingest the probiotics and they become colonised with those bacteria over time.

Dr Shayan Sharif’s and one of his assistents at the lab at the University of Guelph are involved in developing probiotic formulations against Salmonella. Photo: University of Guelph

Necrotic Enteritis

Next up for Dr Sharif’s lab will be work on Clostridium perfringens which can cause Necrotic Enteritis, essentially…

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