New technology to reduce antimicrobial use in pigs

Photo by Simon Whitaker (Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0).

An all-Canadian product that promises better pork health is coming onto the domestic market this month. It’s designed to reduce antimicrobial use in piglets, by making them healthier from the start.

The product is called Nuvio. Its producers, MicroSintesis and Bio Agri Mix, call Nuvio technology  “proteobiotics.” That’s the name they’ve given molecules produced by probiotics.

Probiotics consist of naturally occurring bacteria (and sometimes yeast) introduced into the gut to make animals healthier and help prevent disease. Proteobiotics go one step further, by running interference with disease-causing mechanisms of gut bacteria.

The companies’ research shows that when Nuvio is administered through piglets’ drinking water for their first 14 days, it’s 86 per cent effective in reducing diarrhea.

And, the companies say, it contributes to significant improvements in weight gain and feed conversion.

“The proteobiotics simultaneously reduce pathogenic bacteria’s effectiveness, while increasing the ratio of the natural gut flora,” says Trevor Lank, swine technical consultant for MicroSintesis. “It’s truly an all-in-one technology.”

Adds company CEO Hannah McIvor: “If we can get these animals to start out healthier, then they’ll be stronger and better able to fight off disease later.”

Nuvio is expected to cost about 70 cents per pig. It’s being released to veterinarians and feed companies this month, and should be available to producers immediately after.

The product is based on research from University of Guelph food safety expert Mansel Griffiths.

He discovered molecules that are involved in proteobiotic activity stop cells in certain disease-causing bacteria, such as salmonella and e-coli, from communicating with each other.

Normally, these cells work collectively. They chemically signal each other to attack the host organism at the most opportune time — for them. The problematic cells then express what are called virulence factors: toxin release, biofilm formation, adhesion and invasion.

But when their lines of communication are disrupted, they’re rendered ineffective.

“With Nuvio, there’s a broad spectrum effect, and in the future we hope to target different microbiota disruptions,” says MicroSintesis’s McIver.

There’s a consumer angle too. Nuvio responds to growing public concerns about the prophylactic use of antibiotics to kill bacteria — in humans and livestock — and the resistance over-exposed bacteria are mounting against such antimicrobial treatments.

“Nuvio will fill a unique void for ‘raised without antimicrobials’ swine production,” says Robert Bell, CEO of Bio Agri Mix. “The Canadian livestock sector is fortunate to have access to it. There aren’t many technologies like this that come to Canada first.”

MicroSintesis and Bio Agri Mix are researching potential applications in other livestock species, as well.

Nuvio was developed with help from the National Research Council, through its Industrial Research Assistance Program. It’s being manufactured in Prince Edward Island at Microsintesis’ production facility.  The company located there in response to favourable business conditions the province created for small Canadian manufacturers.

 

Owen Roberts

Owen Roberts directs research communications and teaches at the University of Guelph, and is president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists. You can find him on Twitter as @theurbancowboy

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