Researchers Develop Alternative to Antibiotics for Livestock

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by Bob Meyer

An animal scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has developed an antibiotic-free way to protect animals raised for food from common digestive tract infections.  Professor Mark Cook says the discovery was actually made by accident.  “We were actually trying to create a scenario which would allow us to develop new alternatives to antibiotics.”  They were working with coccidiosis in chickens and found “it fixed the problem that we were one day hoping to fix.”  They went on to test it on larger groups of chickens then in beef cattle, dairy calves and lambs.  “It seems to work everywhere we go,” says Cook.

The researchers discovered that bacteria and many other pathogens have developed a way to in-effect have an animal turn-off its immune system making it susceptible to the infection.  The “switch” is called Interleukin 10 or IL-10.  Cook and animal science associate research Jordan Sand learned how to disable IL-10.  Laying hens are vaccinated with a small peptide, a short protein of about eight amino acids.  Hens make a chemical called macrophage migratory inhibition factor or MIF which is then passed on in their eggs.  “Then we just take those eggs and dry them and it to the animal.”  They can make the vaccine specific to the animal species.  The MIF causes the animal to flip the IL-10 switch, turning their immune system back-on and overriding the bug’s ability to evade the immune system.

The method has been as effective as antibiotics against bacteria, protozoa, Cryptosporidium, single and multi-celled parasites, respiratory infections cattle and certain viruses.  He also says that because they are targeting the immune system and not the infectious agent, the agent will be less-likely to mutate and develop resistance.

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Source:  Brown Field Ag News

Image courtesy of the University of Wisconsin


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