Poultry probiotic cuts its coat to beat bad bacteria

Mar 27, 2013
This is a SEM image of Lactobacillus johnsonii (smooth mutant). Credit: Kathryn Cross, IFR

A strain of probiotic bacteria that can fight harmful bacterial infections in poultry has the ability to change its coat, according to new findings from the Institute of Food Research.

The probiotic is currently being taken forward through farm-scale trials to evaluate how well it combats Clostridium perfringens – a cause of in poultry and the second most common cause of in the UK

The researchers at IFR, which is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, had previously found that the probiotic Lactobacillus johnsonsii, when given to young chicks, prevents the of C. perfringens. Now, in research published in the journal PLOS ONE, they have found that the have the ability to alter their coat. They speculate that this could be one way in which the probiotic outcompete C. perfringens.

The researchers noticed when examining the that a small number of them appear smooth. They identified genes responsible for making a special coat, or capsule, which the bacteria surround themselves in. This protects the bacteria from stomach acids and bile salts, and helps them come together to form biofilms. It may also protect against drying out when outside the host. The natural appearance of smooth could be a ploy used by the bacteria to introduce variation into its populations, making them able to take advantage of different environments.

By turning off one or more of the coat genes, they could see what effect this had on its ability to stick to gut tissues. "The next step is to understand the regulation of the genes involved in making the coat" said Dr Arjan Narbad, who led the studies. "We want to find out whether changing the coat affects the probiotic's fitness to colonise and inhabit the gut."

This in turn could prevent C. perfringens from colonising the gut. This competitive exclusion could be one reason why the probiotic strain prevents the growth of other harmful bacteria.

Understanding the role of the slime capsule coat will inform the commercial development of this strain as a preventative treatment for C. perfringens infection in poultry, especially in regard to how the probiotic is stored and produced. Through the technology transfer company Plant Bioscience Ltd, the strain has been patented and is now in large-scale farm trials to assess its efficacy. As these bacteria have previously been used in the food chain and are considered safe for human consumption, this probiotic strain could become new way of controlling C. perfringens.

As there is a growing pressure to reduce the use of antibiotics in farming, new products are needed to maintain animal welfare standards, reduce the huge costs of necrosis in poultry and help keep our food safe.

Explore further: YEATS protein potential therapeutic target for cancer

More information: Spontaneous mutation reveals importance of exopolysaccharide to Lactobacillus johnsonii surface charcteristics, PLOS ONE, dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0059957

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Probiotic bacteria could help treat Crohn's disease

Mar 31, 2011

New research suggests that infection with a probiotic strain of E. coli bacteria could help treat an reduce the negative effects of another E. coli infection that may be associated with Crohn's disease. Researchrs from the ...

Scientists discover technique to help 'friendly bacteria'

Sep 21, 2007

There is currently a great deal of interest in the health-associated properties of probiotics, also known as ‘beneficial’ or ‘friendly’ bacteria, and prebiotics, the food needed for the growth of probiotic when inside ...

New polymer research could boost probiotics industry

Sep 06, 2011

A protective delivery vehicle that shuttles friendly bacteria safely through the stomach to the intestines could provide a major boost for the probiotics industry. The new technology could also be used for the delivery of ...

Probiotic without effect against Salmonella

Apr 19, 2010

Many tourists travelling abroad go down with diarrhoea, which can be caused by Salmonella. While probiotics are often cited as the solution to various stomach problems, the probiotic, Lactobacillus plantarum has no effect ...

Recommended for you

YEATS protein potential therapeutic target for cancer

Oct 23, 2014

Federal Express and UPS are no match for the human body when it comes to distribution. There exists in cancer biology an impressive packaging and delivery system that influences whether your body will develop cancer or not.

Precise and programmable biological circuits

Oct 23, 2014

A team led by ETH professor Yaakov Benenson has developed several new components for biological circuits. These components are key building blocks for constructing precisely functioning and programmable bio-computers.

User comments : 0