Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Improving Gut Health by means of Feed Additives: An Overview of Possible Solutions.

Pedro Encarna

Biomin Laboratory Singapore Pte. Ltd.
3791 Jalan Bukit Merah #08-08 E-Center@Redhill,
Singapore 159471
Pedro.encarnacao@biomin.net Feed transformation into biomass gain its a process that starts in the digestive system of the animal. As such, its health status and its functionality correlate directly with the economic results of the farmer. From mammalian research it is well known that the gastrointestinal tract is responsive and sensitive to a wide range of stressors. Some of the more common features are degeneration of the intestinal mucosa and perturbation of its barrier function and uptake mechanisms. Closely connected with the state of health of the gut is a well balanced intestinal micro-flora, which helps the digestive and absorptive process and protects the host against invading pathogens.

During the last decade, there has been an improvement in understanding of the importance of intestinal microbiota in fish. Floral health is a new concept, which underlines the importance of the microbiota to the intestinal health and performance.

Several studies have shown that different feed ingredients and changes in diet composition can affect gut structure and microbiota balance influencing digestive and absorptive functions. Alteration of the intestinal microbiota composition and consequent reduction of protective gut microflora may contribute to pathogenesis in the gut. Thus, management of the gut microbiota is an important issue to achieve a good feed efficiency, animal growth and animal health. Management means selection of beneficial strains, control of their numbers, minimizing number of potential pathogenic strains.

In the past this management was frequently made by the dietary addition and use of antibiotic growth promoters for controlling pathogenic strains. Nowadays, we have learned about more natural ways to manage gut microflora and fish performance using nutriceuticals or functional foods to modulate the health of farmed animals. There are several sustainable options available to manage and regulate fish gut environment which include the use of probiotics, prebiotics, immunostimulants, phytogenic (plant extracts), phycophytic substances (algae derivatives), and organic acids.

There is increasing evidence from research that each of these natural feed additives used alone or in combination can have a beneficial effect on the animal by supporting a well balanced gut microbiota and improving gut health and performance. This paper will review the mode of action and application of several of these substances in some aquatic species.

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