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Improving Feed Conversion Efficiency via a Better Understanding of Gut Microbiotia

The discovery of PCR, the polymerase chain reaction, has now made the genetic information of cells accessible — the DNA from billions of cells hosted in the gastrointestinal tract of humans and animals, to be exact. All these microorganisms form the intestinal microbiota. How could a better understanding of the microbial flora allow for major improvements in livestock’s feed efficiency while reducing antibiotic consumption and methane emissions?


What do a DNA paternity test, a crime scene observed under the microscope by the forensic research of DNA prints and a frozen baby Siberian mammoth have in common? The answer lies in our ability to read DNA at an affordable price and to draw innovations from these observations, such as that of cloning the baby mammoth’s corpse. These achievements have been permitted by the discovery a chemical process in the 80’s: The Polymerase Chain Reaction, currently referred to as PCR. Its discoverers – researchers Mullis and Smith, owed their major recognition to this discovery. The Nobel Prize was indeed awarded to them in 1993. Today, with the "sequencing" of the DNA of bacteria, especially of a section of their DNA, DNA ribosomal 16s, it is possible to identify all the bacteria contained in a specific environment while in the past, our knowledge was restricted only to cultivable bacteria. This constitutes a major turning-point in scientific history as these bacteria can now be referred to by their names in the classification of living things: firmicutes Bacteroides, proteobacteria, etc. This is an essential concept in the context of rearing for the digestive tract is at the core of animals’ performance and health.

 

Why are bacteria of the digestive tract worth special attention?

Bacteria of the gastrointestinal tract make up the intestinal microbiota. The microbiota has a significant influence on the health status of individuals and animals. The most relevant experiment in this domain is that of Gordon in 2004. The latter demonstrated that skinny mice could become obese after having undergone the transplantation of the flora of obese mice. The microbiota is vital for its host’s life. It allows, among other things, nutrient digestion, synthesis of vitamins, building of the immune system, the development of the intestinal wall. When it comes to animal production, the prospects are exceptional. In-depth knowledge of the realm of microbiota and the way our diets could influence its functions could improve our command of digestive issues while enabling us to reduce antibiotic use. These advances could also translate into better results in terms of feed efficiency and the selection of the most resistant species.

 

TECHNA: at the heart of research on intestinal microbiota

The TECHNA Group is involved in various research programs designed to increase the knowledge and command of microbiota. These ongoing projects are currently being pursued through experiments aimed at further examining the intestinal flora of various species. New discoveries are about to be revealed in the following fields:

The means to orientate the microbiota are multiple and diversified: microorganisms additions (probiotics) or nutrients specific to microorganisms (prebiotics), essential oils and plant extracts, digestible and indigestible fibres, slow or fast starches. Current research will allow us to better assess their effects, especially on the critical starting stages in poultry and weaning in piglet. These will result in designing even more effective feeds or additives.

For more information the TECHNA Group’s prospective approach in this area, please contact our experts!

 

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