Akeso patent looks to offer antibiotic-free alternative for campylobacter reduction

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Akeso Biomedical has received a US patent covering some of its work to reduce the presence of the bacterium campylobacter in poultry using an antibiotic-free feed additive, says COO.

The Massachusetts-based company announced the patent last week, and added that other patent applications are in progress.

The awarded patent covers the use of Akeso’s ferric tyrosine (Fe3C) technology in poultry feed or water to reduce the presence of campylobacter, said Jerome Meier, chief operating officer with Akeso. It also covers use of the technology for a portion of, or the entirety of, a bird’s production.

“The molecule prevents campylobacter from attaching to the gut wall,” he told FeedNavigator. “It doesn’t kill the bacterium, or alter its growth – it stops it [from] adhering to the gut wall, and it stops it forming a biofilm.”

Without the ability to attach, the bacteria move through the gastrointestinal tract and are excreted by the bird, he said. “It goes into the feed in small quantities – it doesn’t eliminate campylobacter, but it reduces the amount in [the birds].”

Work with Fe3C and campylobacter

The company has been working to advance and develop a technology initially created at the University of Nottingham in England, said Meier. One initial, overall goal was to reduce the amount of campylobacter found in poultry to levels that would not make humans sick.

“It’s a leading source of food poisoning,” he said.

The initial research developed an iron-based molecule that appears to prevent the bacterium from attaching to the lining of a bird’s intestinal tract, he said. The molecule has since been refined to make use of more frequently occurring ingredients.

Akeso has tested the use of the feed additive both during the entirety of a chicken’s production cycle and for limited periods, he said. When used for a longer period, the technology also has been linked with other production benefits like birds putting on weight faster.

Targeted usage generally needs to start on about day 21, as that is when the bacteria starts to appear in birds, said Meier. “It won’t eradicate campylobacter, but what we’re trying to do is reduce the load,” he added.

However, the feed additive does offer an antibiotic-free option for reducing bacteria load in birds, he said. “One way to control campylobacter has been antibiotics, but that weapon is being removed which makes campylobacter tougher to tackle,” he added.  

Ongoing research

The company started looking at the use of the feed additive in the production of broiler chickens, however, there are several other applications being examined, said Meier.

“We’re extending it to other bacterial diseases in other animals,” he said. “We’re doing work in pigs – in pigs campylobacter isn’t as big of an issue.”

Instead, Akeso has been working on reducing E. coli infections in weaned pigs, he said. “We’ve seen this works against E. coli,” he added.

“We give it when they’re weaned and for the next 42 days, and we’ve run studies in Europe, and we’ve seen a mitigation of that [post-weaning] weight loss,” said Meier. “In principle it would allow you to get to a higher weight at slaughter.”

In addition to expanding the technology for use in other species, it is currently being examined for use with corn-based poultry diets, he said. Previously, work with broilers focused on use of a wheat-based diet.

Preliminary trials with corn diets have been completed and results are currently being verified, he said.

Market focus and expansion

The initial commercial markets considered were in Europe and the United Kingdom, said Meier.  

Reducing campylobacter amounts has been a focus for producers in Europe and of regulatory efforts to improve food safety, he said. “In the UK they found that they spend about $1bn on treating campylobacter [related illness],” he added.

However, more work is now being done to examine use of the feed additive in the US, he said. “The USDA came out with new regulations mandating that integrators lower their amounts of campylobacter and salmonella at the slaughter house,” he added.

The company has applied for other patents looking at compounds similar to the ferric tyrosine used in the current product, he said. It also has applied for regulatory approval to sell the feed additive in the EU.

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