For th­ese piglets, to­bacco’s in and an­tibi­otics are out

The Woolwich Observer - - VENTURE - OWEN ROBERTS

AN­TIBI­OTICS ARE EF­FEC­TIVE IN fight­ing bac­te­ria and the dis­eases they can cause. Un­for­tu­nately, they’ve been overused in so­ci­ety, for hu­mans and live­stock. It’s to the point where some bac­te­ria are pro­duc­ing strains that can re­sist an­tibi­otics’ abil­ity to con­trol or kill them.

In this case, the best of­fence is a good de­fense. De­fend hu­mans and live­stock from mi­cro­bial dis­ease so they don’t need an­tibi­otics to be healthy.

To that end, dozens of ap­proaches have been cre­ated. In agri­cul­ture, one such ap­proach is the Univer­sity of Guelph’s de­vel­op­ment of nat­u­rally high im­mune re­sponse live­stock. Their ge­net­ics dic­tate that they’re au­to­mat­i­cally health­ier, and through their lives, are less likely to ac­quire the kinds of dis­eases that re­quires an­tibi­otics.

Here’s an­other ap­proach – and it in­volves ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied or­gan­isms, or GMOs.

At Guelph, ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied to­bacco has proven suc­cess­ful in help­ing re­duce po­ten­tially fa­tal post-wean­ing di­ar­rhea in piglets.

The to­bacco con­tains the protein FaeG, de­rived from a bac­te­ria called F4 en­tero­tox­i­genic E.coli. This protein pre­vents nasty E. coli, the causal agent of post-wean­ing di­ar­rhea, from tak­ing hold in piglets’ small in­testines.

The ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied to­bacco is dried and fed in small amounts to

the young pigs, as a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal feed ad­di­tive.

Grad­u­ate stu­dent Vic­to­ria Seip and Profs. Robert Friend­ship and Va­hab Farzan found that five grams a day of the to­bacco (de­vel­oped by Agri­cul­ture and Agri-Food Canada in its Lon­don Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Cen­tre) re­duced the in­ci­dence of di­ar­rhea in three-week-old re­cently weaned piglets by more than 30 per cent. Here’s why. New­born piglets draw im­mu­nity from their moth­ers’ milk, against harm­ful E.coli and other bac­te­ria.

But when the piglets are weaned, they no longer have such pro­tec­tion. It takes sev­eral weeks be­fore they build up their own im­mu­nity.

It’s dur­ing that time they are most sus­cep­ti­ble to the bac­te­ria that cause di­ar­rhea. In about half of the pig pop­u­la­tion, the cells in their small in­tes­tine nat­u­rally con­tain a re­cep­tor that al­lows those harm­ful bac­te­ria to take hold there and re­lease tox­ins. Di­ar­rhea de­vel­ops, and the piglets must be treated with an­timi­cro­bials or an­tibi­otics.

That’s where the protein FaeG comes in. It com­petes with the harm­ful E.coli for re­cep­tor sites. So with many fewer places to take hold, the E. coli bac­te­ria carry on through the in­testines and are even­tu­ally ex­creted.

Pre­vi­ous re­search con­ducted by Agri­cul­ture and Agri-Food Canada showed that when em­bed­ded in dried leaves, the protein was not bro­ken down in the di­ges­tive tract be­fore hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to work against the path­o­genic E.coli.

Seip says more work must be done be­fore de­ter­min­ing whether this treat­ment is com­mer­cially vi­able, but she’s en­thused about re­sults. Seip be­lieves this plant­based prod­uct might be an al­ter­na­tive to an­tibi­otics and an­timi­cro­bials that are cur­rently added to some starter feeds for piglets, to help them stave off dis­ease.

The chal­lenge is to find a way to in­cor­po­rate the protein into such starter feeds. In the Guelph tri­als, Seip and re­search tech­ni­cians mixed the dried leaf pow­der with choco­late milk and bot­tle fed it to the 24 piglets in the study five times be­fore they were in­tro­duced to the bac­te­ria, to en­sure the an­i­mals con­sis­tently re­ceived the proper dose.

That wouldn’t be prac­ti­cal in a com­mer­cial herd where most pro­duc­ers wean at least 150 pigs per week. If the ap­proach is to be of­fered widely, it will need to be part of feed.

Oth­ers in­volved in this study, con­ducted at Agri­cul­ture and Agri­Food Canada, the Arkell Re­search Sta­tion and the On­tario Vet­eri­nary Col­lege Iso­la­tion unit and the An­i­mal Health Lab­o­ra­tory, were Drs. Rima Me­nassa and Josepha De­lay.

This re­search was spon­sored by the Univer­sity of Guelph – On­tario Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, Food and Ru­ral Af­fairs’ agree­ment and Swine In­no­va­tion Porc.

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