Bacteriophages for improvement of intestinal health in Pigs & Poultry
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Since the ban on antibiotic use for growth promotion, bacterial infections of the intestines are an emerging problem in poultry and pig farming. In addition, there is increasing pressure to find better alternatives to antibiotics in the battle against bacterial infections. The use of bacteriophages or endolysins in animal feed might be such an alternative. In pigs and poultry a relatively small group of bacteria exists, which form the major threat to intestinal health. Therapeutic phage/endolysin treatment of some of these intestinal pathogens; i.e. Brachyspira ssp, Clostridium perfringens, Clostridium difficile and Escherichia coli might be an option. However, bacteriophages and endolysins are not equally applicable for all these infections. Various phages and/or endolysins have been isolated, characterised and tested in vitro and sometimes in vivo. They vary greatly in, specificity, virulence, lytic potential, sensitivity (for light, pH-value) per individual phage. Therefore, each phage has to be considered independently for its potential to survive residency in animal feed, and the oral application route and finally its efficacy to reduce or eliminate the specific pathogen. Furthermore, the distinctive properties of targeted bacteria affect the suitability of the therapy. Overall, the limited research, and not the possibility, has hampered the use of phages for such therapeutical application. While bacteriophage and endolysin treatment will probably never fully replace antibiotics, they can be a good addition to and might be used in combination with them, to combat the increasing bacterial infections in pigs and poultry.