Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researcher Finds Alternatives To Antibiotics For Growing Chickens

Date:
January 13, 2000
Source:
University Of Wisconsin-Madison
Summary:
University of Wisconsin-Madison animal scientist Mark Cook is finding ways producers can raise chickens economically with fewer antibiotics. The research could slow the development of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains, preserve the useful life of antibiotics, and allow scientists to breed chickens with strong immune systems.

MADISON - University of Wisconsin-Madison animal scientist Mark Cook is finding ways producers can raise chickens economically with fewer antibiotics. "I believe that our new tools and strategies will increase both animal and human health," he says.

Related Articles


The research could slow the development of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains, preserve the useful life of antibiotics, and allow scientists to breed chickens with strong immune systems, according to Cook, a researcher at the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

There have been growing concerns about the development of new bacterial strains resistant to antibiotics. The increasing number of antibiotic-resistant strains means doctors are losing their ability to cure human infections.

One controversial aspect of the antibiotic-resistance issue has been whether the routine feeding of antibiotics to agricultural animals contributes to the increase in antibiotic-resistant strains. European countries have banned the routine use of antibiotics in chicken feed. However, Cook believes that banning antibiotics would dramatically increase food costs, leave animal producers with few strategies to control diseases and pathogens, and greatly reduce investment in new pharmaceuticals to fight infection in both animals and people.

"To keep birds healthy, we've come to rely on antibiotics, which promote growth by warding off infections and their growth-reducing effects," Cook says. "We need other ways that poultry producers can keep the birds growing rapidly without feeding antibiotics routinely in the diet."

In the 1950s, Cook says, researchers found that animals fed antibiotics grew faster than those not fed the compounds. Using antibiotics in feed gave producers an economic advantage in raising animals to market weight quickly and at low cost. The routine addition of growth promoting antibiotics to animal feed soon became commonplace in agriculture.

When the practice began, researchers didn't fully understand why antibiotics improved animal growth, according to Cook. "You might expect that infectious microbes themselves decrease animal growth. Instead, the animal's own immune system is responsible for the growth depression that occurs when an animal is infected."

"Chickens respond to immune stimulants much the way we do to the flu," Cook says. "They don't want to eat, their muscles begin to break down and they lose weight."

The reason, Cook explains, is that when faced with a foreign substance -- such as an infectious microbe -- the immune system's white blood cells release cytokines. These chemical messengers cause the gut to produce peptides that result in animals not eating. The cytokines also trigger a response in muscles that promotes wasting.

Cook has tested two compounds that allow birds to grow just as fast as birds fed antibiotics. The compounds don't kill microbes but work by blocking the pathways that lead to weight loss.

The first is an antibody -- not an antibiotic -- that Cook identified. The antibody binds to the gut peptides, keeping them from causing the birds to lose their appetites. When fed the antibody, chickens retain their appetites, even when their immune systems are attacking microorganisms.

Cook has patented a method for producing the antibodies in eggs, a rich source of antibodies. Dried egg powder from these birds can be fed to large flocks. The egg antibodies improve feed conversion and growth, but should not lead to drug-resistant bacteria. The company with the exclusive rights to the production method is scaling up for mass production with the help of many other companies.

The other compound Cook has tested is conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which was originally identified as a compound in ground beef that inhibits some forms of cancer. Cook believes that CLA inhibits the message that triggers the breakdown of muscle cells.

Based on his analysis of studies of domestic poultry, Cook believes that chickens today have weaker immune systems than birds grown on farms 50 years ago. He and several colleagues at the UW-Madison have begun a long-term project to test this idea.

"I believe that by selecting for animals that grow rapidly, we've bred animals with weakened immune systems," he says. "Animals that respond strongly to diseases, vaccinations and other immune system stimulants eat less and lose muscle mass. Breeders can't now select for birds with strong immune systems because that means selecting for slower-growing animals, which would put them out of competition in the industry."

Feeding animals antibodies and CLA, rather than antibiotics, will allow breeders to select for animals with stronger immune systems, according to Cook. That would lead to animals better able to fight off infections on their own, thus further decreasing the need for antibiotics to treat sick birds.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Wisconsin-Madison. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Wisconsin-Madison. "Researcher Finds Alternatives To Antibiotics For Growing Chickens." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 January 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/01/000113080754.htm>.
University Of Wisconsin-Madison. (2000, January 13). Researcher Finds Alternatives To Antibiotics For Growing Chickens. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/01/000113080754.htm
University Of Wisconsin-Madison. "Researcher Finds Alternatives To Antibiotics For Growing Chickens." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/01/000113080754.htm (accessed November 1, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Watch Baby Goose Survive A 400-Foot Cliff Dive

Watch Baby Goose Survive A 400-Foot Cliff Dive

Buzz60 (Oct. 31, 2014) For its nature series Life Story, the BBC profiled the barnacle goose, whose chicks must make a daredevil 400-foot cliff dive from their nests to find food. Jen Markham has the astonishing video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
World's Salamanders At Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

World's Salamanders At Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

Newsy (Oct. 31, 2014) The import of salamanders around the globe is thought to be contributing to the spread of a deadly fungus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alcoholic Drinks In The E.U. Could Get Calorie Labels

Alcoholic Drinks In The E.U. Could Get Calorie Labels

Newsy (Oct. 31, 2014) A health group in the United Kingdom has called for mandatory calorie labels on alcoholic beverages in the European Union. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Malaria Threat in Liberia as Fight Against Ebola Rages

Malaria Threat in Liberia as Fight Against Ebola Rages

AFP (Oct. 31, 2014) Focus on treating the Ebola epidemic in Liberia means that treatment for malaria, itself a killer, is hard to come by. MSF are now undertaking the mass distribution of antimalarials in Monrovia. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins