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TheBeefSite Newsletter - 10 June 2015

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Wednesday 10th June 2015.
Michael Priestley - Editor

Michael Priestley

MSD Animal Health

Non-Antibiotic “Immune Off-Switch” Halves Cattle Infections

Feeding cattle with an “immune switch” antibody has resulted in considerable health benefits.

Tests have shown the immune systems of feedlot steers, dairy calves and egg laying chickens can be manipulated to combat bovine respiratory disease, chronic diarrhoea in calves and coccidiosis in hens.

Called Interleukin 10 (IL-10), the substance is manipulated by pathogens to defeat the immune system during infection.

Immune system manipulation is not new but doing it in the gut is, according to Professor Mark Cook, University of Wisconsin-Madison, who says the industry is interested in the breakthrough.

The Wisconsin trials showed BRD halved in beef steers fed IL-10 antibodies for 14 days and calf respiratory diseases more than halved in calves on the product for ten days.

“We are not focused on the pathogens,” he said. “We are focused on what they are trying to do to the immune system.

“We are getting encouraging data from dairy and beef. We have conducted experiments involving 300,000 chickens in commercial farms, half receiving the product.

“We know it works. The market is interested, and now it's a matter of making a product."

In development since 2011, IL-10 is hoping to address the impending issue of antibiotic resistance.

A University press release explained: “In the past few years, scientists have learned that a large group of pathogens — including bacteria, single- and multicelled parasites, protozoa, even certain viruses — make a chemical called macrophage migratory inhibition factor, or MIF, which activates the IL-10 mechanism to shut down the host animal's immune system.”

The MIF effect has been dubbed ‘wholesale piracy’ of the immune system and scientists have voiced interest in finding out more.

Down the supply chain, major food companies like McDonald’s, Tyson and Two Sisters have announced plans to curb antibiotics usage in their supply.

Legislative measures in the US have produced the Veterinary Feed Directive, released to ensure more judicious use of antimicrobial medicines in the future.

Finalised last week, the Food and Drug Administration law looks to stamp out routine use of antibiotics in animal feed and water for growth promotion purposes and put veterinarians in charge of prescriptions for therapeutic use. 

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