Algae is now being used as a tool to reduce antibiotic consumption, with certain macroalgal polysaccharides being selected for this reason. Thanks to their ability to support immune function and the intestinal epithelium, they can reduce an animal’s reliance on antibiotics. With the current modern production of antibiotics, gut health can easily be disrupted. This is a huge challenge in the industry and is something that scientific research is looking to eliminate with algae moving forward.
Disbalance in Animals as a Result of Consuming Antibiotics
When animals take antibiotics, the gut barrier and immune system can often be weakened, which leads to further digestive issues. Both local and systemic inflammation are often experienced, which goes on to impact the growth and health of the animal. The industry is working to find solutions for this issue. Which offer the ability to protect the health status of the animals without relying on antibiotics as much. Adding in-feed macroalgal polysaccharides is a reliable alternative to assist with immune function and the intestinal barrier function, offering animals more resistance against external aggressors.
What Types of Algae are Used for this Purpose?
Seaweed is one of the top options that’s being investigated for this purpose. The structural complexity of this type of algae offers high reactivity and many benefits to animals. Seaweed polysaccharides are derived from sugar units, such as xylose, uronic acids, and rhamnose. This results in their branched structure and sulfate groups. They are very soluble, which helps to increase reactivity and makes host cell recognition easier. Macroalgae contain sulphated polysaccharides, which aren’t found in freshwater microalgae or terrestrial plants.
Red and green algae extract
These marine biotechnologies have been studied for over 20 years by the Olmix Group in France, which resulted in them developing Algimun. This in-feed product contains two biologically active macroalgal extracts. They are a red algae extract, which works to improve the gut barrier function, and a green algae extract, which targets the immune responses. A research project that was conducted alongside INRA in France showcased the benefits of green algae extract when tested in an in vitro model. The extract is believed to influence gene transcription, and improves the recruitment of antigen-presenting cells, and also offers anti-inflammatory properties.
Green algae tested on broiler chickens and pigs
Further scientific studies also concluded that green algae extract offers immunomodulating properties. And works to improve the monocytes and heterophils protection activities when tested on broiler chickens and pigs. The Olmix Group conducted multiple experiments alongside the Intestinal Biotech Development in 2017. They could study the red algae extract to see how it impacts the intestinal barrier function. Research showed that it upregulates both scaffolding proteins and gene expression of transmembrane, which help to offer the optimal function of multiprotein junctional complexes. It also helps to establish the mucus layer, regulates epithelial cell differentiation, and prevents pathogen colonisation.
Another study featuring the red algae extract was given to mice by INSERM in 2018. These results show the reduction of gut permeability to the blood. When tested on stressed animals, it is shown to reinforce the intestine’s barrier function while defending the animal from toxins and pathogens.
Combined Algae Extracts Benefits
Algimun, which features a combination of red and green algae, offers improved growth performance and reduces the mortality rate in animals by -4.5%. These figures are compared to control animals, and they showed a net benefit of €0.03 per broiler for the integrator. When tested in sows, the product was shown to increase colostrum quality by +25% when compared to the control animals. Fewer treatments from vets were needed, and higher body weight when weaning was indicated. It was shown there was a 10% net benefits increase of +€7.75 per sow.
When tested in piglets, the results showed that the inflammatory status lowered by -16%, and -57% of animals were required to have veterinary treatment following the tests. By the end of the trial, growth had increased by an average of +300g per animal. Therefore, the trials have successfully shown that the product with green and red algae extract offers a wide range of benefits to many animals. It’s a good option for a natural alternative to antibiotics. It works to improve overall health and growth performance, allowing farmers to reduce their reliance on antibiotics in the future. It’s an exciting development in the industry and one we look forward to following more closely in years to come.