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Chitosan as alternative to growth-promoting antibiotics for ruminants
Date:2/26/2010

The natural-occurring biopolymer known as chitosan is being put forward as an effective alternative to growth-promoting antibiotics in the diet of ruminants, according to research carried out by scientists at the Basque technological centre, Neiker-Tecnalia. The presence of these antibiotics as additives in the diet of ruminants has been prohibited in the European Union since 2006, given that their use is linked to developing microbial resistance to antibiotics.

The main problem arising from the prohibition lies in the fact that the costs of production on farms have increased by an estimated 3.5% to 5%, besides increasing the environmental problems on the farms caused by higher emissions of methane gas. Thus, the research by Neiker-Tecnalia has aimed to find antimicrobial alternatives to growth-promoting antibiotics.

Chitosan has turned out to be a viable alternative given that, apart from its proven antimicrobial activity, it has certain advantages being, as it is, a biodegradable, renewable and non-toxic compound. This antimicrobial activity enables putting forward the hypothesis that chitosan specifically affects some of the microorganisms of the rumen -the largest pre-stomach of the ruminants-, and in a beneficial way for rumen digestion. This effect is similar to that produced with monensin, the most widespread growth-promoting antibiotic employed in ruminant diet before its prohibition.

The results obtained from the research were very promising as regards the potential of chitosan for handling ruminant fermentation the goal being to improve nutritional efficiency and boost the use of nutrients for ruminants. If these improvements turn out to be commercially productive and competitive, chitosan could well represent an alternative effective growth-promoting antibiotic for use in the diet of ruminants.

In vitro trials

For the research a series of experiments were put forward to determine the effect
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Contact: Amaia Portugal
a.portugal@elhuyar.com
34-943-363-040
Elhuyar Fundazioa
Source:Eurekalert

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