Antibiotic webinar highlights need for healthy gut

20-10-2017 | |
Antibiotic webinar highlights need for healthy gut. Photo: Hans Prinsen
Antibiotic webinar highlights need for healthy gut. Photo: Hans Prinsen

A healthy gut is a proven solution for better health and feed efficiency. The nutritional approach is key to aim for a healthy intestinal tract and hence reduce antibiotic use in farm animals. This was one of the conclusions from the All About Feed webinar on reducing antibiotics in animal diets.

The webinar, live broadcasted on October 12, delved deeper into the global situation on antibiotic use and the nutritional tools that can be used as part of a plan to reduce antibiotics on farms.


AGPs still allowed in 26% of all countries

Luís Garmo, Research Assistant at the Veterinary Public Health Institute, University of Bern, kicked off the webinar with a short history and global overview of antibiotic use in farm animals. “Antibiotics revolutionised the human medical world and are still often seen as the magic bullets to target pathogens without harming human body. Over the last decades the use of antibiotics have been increasingly used in farm animals as well; to treat diseases, to prevent diseases and to promote growth,” explains Garmo. The latter (the use for growth promoting) shows global variance, “According to 2016 figures from the OIE we see that in 74% of all countries worldwide the use of antibiotics as growth promoter is not allowed. So in 26% it is still allowed in farm animals,” he said.

Garmo also addressed the need for a good monitoring system per country to have a clear picture of the total antibiotics used. Ideally, every country should also measure the resistance levels to be able to assess whether resistance levels in bacteria go up or down, depending on the levels of antibiotics used in agriculture (and human medicine). He also discussed the results from a survey among 67 veterinarian experts from Portugal, Switzerland and Denmark. “We asked them about their views on alternatives to antibiotic use and made a top 10 of the answers given. On number 1 we had the need to improve internal biosecurity. On 2nd place, the need to improve the veterinarians education was seen.”


60-80% of all antibiotics are used for intestinal disorders

Susanne Kirwan PhD, product manager Health at Kemin Europe explained the benefits for the animals when fewer antibiotics are used. Facts presented by her included that In 2016, about 60-80% of all antibiotics were used for intestinal disorders. “If ionophore coccidiostats were classed as antibiotics, the number would be higher,” Susanne addressed. So, it would make sense to target the intestinal tract when we talk about which actions to take to reduce antibiotics. Kirwan said: “Only reducing antibiotic use for intestinal disorders by half would decrease total usage of antibiotics by 40% independent of which antibiotics are used. This can be achieved by aiming for a functional intestine, which entails good integrity, immunity and stability.”

Susanne Kirwan - product manager health - Kemin

Susanne Kirwan – product manager health – Kemin

In her presentation she also mentioned that there are some benefits of antibiotics:

  • they reduce mortality, when used as a treatment,
  • they improve animal welfare
  • when used as a AGP they can improve feed conversion (hence leading to a lower carbon footprint and improved sustainability.

“The sector perceives antibiotics as an insurance policy against diseases.” When we compare this with having a healthy intestine in animals, we also see less mortality, better feed conversion and improved animal welfare. The only important difference, is that a healthy intestine is proven (not perceived) as an insurance policy against diseases.”


Alpha-monoglycerides: more powerful than fatty acids

André Meeusen, independent animal nutrition consultant and invited by FRAmelco also addressed the need for a healthy intestinal balance. “Animal production systems have changes after the year 2000. The EU banned the use of animal meal and in 2006 a ban on AGPs was enforced. It was a time where we had to move from dysbiosis (bacterial disbalance / disorder) to eubiosis (a healthy intestinal environment in the animals).”

André Meeusen - independent consultant - Framelco

André Meeusen – independent consultant – Framelco

Meeusen explained that short chain fatty acids (SCFA) and medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) are used in the feed industry. “SCFA have a bactericidal effect in their undissociated form. They work only in acidic environments such as the stomach and gizzard and are only effective against Gram negative bacteria. MCFA are saturated and more lipophilic and are active also at intestinal level and are effective against both Gram negative as Gram positive bacteria,” Meeusen said. But the alpha-monoglycerides of these fatty acids are much more powerful in their antibacterial effect. Alpha-monoglycerides are a class of glycerides that are composed of a fatty acid linked to the sn1-position of a glycerol molecule via an ester bond. This bond makes alpha-monoglycerides remain undissociated independently from the pH. Meeusen explained in the webinar how these alpha-monoglycerides work and how these can be a nutritional tool to help in reducing antibiotic use by creating a healthy intestinal environment in the animal.

All of our previous webinars can be re-watched as well and can be found here. Companies that want to be part of one of our upcoming webinars (several topics already planned for 2018, including mycotoxins, pig health, poultry health) can contact us at

Emmy Koeleman Freelance editor