How garlic is thwarting the dreaded red mite
GARLIC contains a potent natural insecticide and after 15 years of hard work developing a garlic-based product, one East Sussex-based company believes that it has come up with an effective red mite treatment.
Back in the early 1990s, Norman Bennett was working for a water company when he read a book on garlic. The book stated that allicin, a compound found in garlic, is the best antimicrobial compound it is possible to find in nature.
“If this is true, then why are we not using it to fight bacteria,” he asked himself.
After much trial and error, he and business partner Peter Josling developed a patented process to produce allicin. Today their company, Allicin International, is selling allicin worldwide under the brand name of Nopex BK in a range of forms — powder, creams, pills and sprays — aimed at both the retail veterinary and medical sectors.
Behind this success is a wealth of independent research data which demonstrates the product’s antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Laboratory tests by Dr Ron Cutler of the University of East London show that allicin is effective against a wide range of microbes, including E coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Bordetella, Salmonella enteritis, Clostridium perfringens and Staphylococcus aureus.
“We are even seeing positive results with MRSA. Allicin successfully kills MRSA while the most powerful antibiotic available often fails,” says Norman, who is now looking at how his product can benefit the livestock sector, including poultry.
He started with a one-month trial on E coli.
“One shed containing 10,000 layers received no treatment, while a second received 1.5l of Nopex BK solution/1,000l of drinking water for seven days and then 1l/1,000l for three days.”
The trial revealed that treated birds were free of E coli, while control birds showed signs of infection in liver samples. But a more noticeable benefit became apparent only days after the start of the trial.
“Treated birds appeared healthier and had redder combs,” Norman explains. “Control birds had white combs, a typical symptom of red mite attack due to anaemia. The result was that treated birds produced 2% more eggs as well.”
Norman admits that he wasn’t surprised by the improvement in performance as high levels of mite infestation can cause increased stress to the birds and subsequently reduced egg production, anaemia and, in severe cases, death. Infection has also been implicated with elevated levels of E coli.
Blood-feeding bird parasite
Red mite ( Dermanyssus gallinae) is a blood-feeding bird parasite that attacks resting hens mainly during the night for a short (usually the duration is one to two hours) blood meal. After feeding, the mites hide in cracks and crevices away from daylight.
Norman has recently been engaged in a nine-month trial comparing two groups of 10,000 layers. Detailed examination of birds in this trial revealed that mites at the nymph stage were being repelled by the taste of allicin in the blood of treated birds. The result was that nymphs didn’t feed, dropped off and eventually died.
“This breaks the cycle, with fewer nymphs reaching the adult stage,” he explains.
Birds also showed more vitality and improved comb colour. In the current trial, Nopex BK is proving 100% effective and birds are currently laying 2-4% more eggs.
Also, there is no bird mortality, with the birds living longer, staying longer in production and the treatment also helps to keep water tanks, pipes and drinkers clean.
When talking about garlic, producers often question whether allicin puts birds off drinking. But Norman highlights the inclusion rate: “At a rate of 1.5l of product/1,000l of drinking water, there is no problem with water intakes,” he says. “Laboratory tests also confirm no traces of allicin in eggs or in meat.”
Looking ahead, Norman envisages that producers will treat birds through lay on a repeating three days on, three days off programme. It also provides producers with a non-antibiotic treatment for E coli.
Dr J W Bok is carrying out trials with Dutch pest control company Van Veldhuijzen on a layer unit near Boxmeer, The Netherlands.