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Probiotics instead of antibiotics

A great gut feeling

G20 health ministers have resolved to fight antibiotic resistance. Intestinal bacteria help in the search for alternatives to antibiotics in animal nutrition.

The number of pathogens that are resistant to antibiotics is on the rise, due partly to the use of drugs in animal breeding. The World Health Organization (WHO) in its Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance has called for prudence in administering drugs, even to animals, and has also drawn attention to their continuously increasing use in animal nutrition. On December 1, 2016, Germany took over the presidency of G20—the association of the 20 leading industrialized and emerging countries—for one year. Among the key topics on the agenda is action against antibiotic resistance. As early as January 2017, G20 agriculture ministers made a commitment to ensuring responsible handling of antibiotics in agriculture. One approach here is to strengthen the immune systems of the animals.

The way to a healthy chicken is through its gut
More than 100 billion bacteria—more than 10 times the number of people on earth—live in the gut of a chicken. Until recently these minute intestinal denizens were no more than digestive aids and vitamin producers; today they are regarded as a key to health and wellbeing. Evonik is exploiting the microbes to promote animal health: They are expected to aid the development of alternatives to antibiotics in animal nutrition.

“Natural feed additives such as probiotics play a decisive role here,” says Dr. Emmanuel Auer, head of Evonik’s Animal Nutrition Business Line. Probiotics are natural organisms that live in the gut of chickens, for example, and are expected to strengthen the animal’s immune system to the extent that it can fight pathogens without external assistance.

The researchers aim to produce probiotics of customized and proven efficacy. In addition, Evonik hopes to be able to use gut bacteria to determine the state of health of animals and to give breeders recommendations for needs-oriented feed compositions containing probiotics to promote intestinal health.