The Alternatives to Veterinary ANTimicrobials or AVANT project, is led by the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. It involves 14 partner organizations from nine countries such as SEGES in Denmark and Schothorst Feed Research in the Netherlands and is funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation platform.
The research initiative seeks to develop alternatives to antimicrobials for the management of bacterial infections in pigs, especially diarrhea during the weaning period.
Some of the novel approaches under evaluation are a gut-stabilizing intervention based on symbiotic products and fecal microbiota transplantation, feed additive products, as well as novel feeding strategies, feed composition, targeting both sows and piglets. Mathematical modelling tools with be used to estimate reduction in antimicrobial use by 2030 if these alternative practices are adopted by the pig production industry.
“We were invited to be part of the consortium, a fact that reflects our commitment, reputation and dedication to science, which is recognized throughout the research community. And when the proposal was accepted and funded, we realized that this was an opportunity for us to connect with all the big players in this field, scientific experts in both academia and industry from across Europe,” Dr Verity Ann Sattler, scientist, Biomin, told us.
The need to find alternatives to antimicrobials in pig production has gained in importance in recent years, said Biomin, due to the fact that no effective vaccines are available at present, and also given the pending ban on the use of medical zinc oxide in the EU along with the restrictions now placed on the use of colistin because of its critical importance in human medicine. Another pressing reason to hunt for antimicrobial substitutes is the fact that enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) has the potential to be resistant to all veterinary antimicrobials of lower medical importance.
Gut microbiome modulation
Through AVANT, the company will test a novel feed additive that it has developed using state-of-the art tools and techniques.
“Gut microbiome modulation will be our focus area in the project,” Sattler said.
Biomin’s approach is about bolstering the piglet’s gut health so that the animal is more robust in terms of dealing with any enteric bacterial disease challenges, continued the scientist.
The microbiome has a massive impact on the health of animals, not only by affecting treatment strategies, but also through disabling pathogens, said Biomin, with the animal nutrition firm adding that it is becoming clearer that early intervention in the microbiome has a long-lasting effect, through a process called epigenetics, which allows for differences in genetic information being used.
Piglet scours is a costly, multi-factorial challenge, and pig producers need an expanded set of natural and innovative tools in order to successfully move away from the application of antimicrobials and zinc, which are associated with several drawbacks, stressed Sattler.
Speaking during a webinar, The Microbiome and its Crucial Importance for the Health and Immunity of the Pig, run as part of the Biomin Antibiotic Reduction Expert Series, Professor Dirk Werling of the Royal Veterinary College, UK, remarked. "Early antibiotic application has a negative effect on the gut microbiome and immune system development, and this effect lasts a long time."
EU registration support
Participation in AVANT could also help Biomin secure registration for the gut microbiome modulating probiotic product, explained Sattler.
“Being part of the consortium, we have access to experts who can advise on regulatory aspects, and the best approach to getting the product onto the market in the EU.”
However, it is still open as to which of the products being evaluated under AVANT will be taken to the large-scale farm trial stage to determine their effectiveness in a commercial setting.
A pre-testing phase of all products will be undertaken before the partners then determine which ones offer the most promise for management of bacterial infections in pigs.