In the search for an antibiotic alternative, many poultry producers have turned to probiotics to treat diseases in their flocks.

Antibiotic use has come under scrutiny in recent years. Antibiotic resistance – which occurs when bacteria develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them – can devastate flocks, affect the livelihood of farmers and make consumers sick if they eat the infected meat.

In addition, there is increasing consumer demand for antibiotic-free poultry meat.

“For decades, farmers have used antibiotics to raise healthy birds free of harmful bacteria, but bacteria are fighting back and are developing resistance to all of our antibiotic classes. This resistance threatens the health of mankind,” Yiannis Kaznessis, CEO, General Probiotics Inc., explained during the Virtual Poultry Tech Summit 2020.

“As a result, there is a global push to remove an estimated 130,000 tons of antibiotics from livestock production, with an estimated worth of 15 billion dollars. So then what are farmers to do without antibiotics?”

Probiotics to the rescue

Probiotics are live-microorganisms that can help confer a health benefit to their host, in this case poultry.

“Probiotics are widely marketed as alternative to antibiotics. They are naturally occurring benign bacteria. They do confer some benefits, but their performance is not consistent. They do not work often against harmful bacteria and when they do, their performance is weak,” Kaznessis said.

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They have developed a new biotherapeutic treatment using a combination of genetic engineering and synthetic biology techniques. The probiotic has already been proven successful against Clostridia perfingens, the bacterial cause of necrotic enteritis.

In the future, they hope to expand this research to create probiotics that target other bacterial strains.

“We are doing this using artificial intelligence enabled synthetic biology. Briefly what this means is that we have computational models that allow us to connect the DNA sequences that we engineer to the performance of the live therapeutic in the animal,” said Kaznessis.

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