Enteric infections cause major problems in most intensive animal production sectors, including poultry, pigs and cattle, leading to disease, reduced production and compromised welfare. In addition some of these infections are zoonotic, and they are to a large extent responsible for the continued massive use of antibiotics in food animals. Thus there is a pressing need for economically feasible, efficient, non-antibiotics based means for controlling the problem. Passive immunization has been known for decades as an efficient way of endowing humans or animals with short-term (weeks) immunity. To control enteric infections by passive immunization a bolus of immunoglobulin may simply be administered orally. For this to work, large amounts of active immunoglobulins are needed. To be a real alternative to antibiotics the price of the immunoglobulin product needs to be low. We combined an efficient and mild high-capacity method for extracting immunoglobulins directly from raw materials like milk, whey and blood plasma with a novel method for stabilizing activity. In a first experiment a total of 15 kg unstabilized bovine immunoglobulin was purified from whey (35.000 liters) and administered to colostrum-deprived calves (225-300 g pr calf during the first 24 hours after birth). No difference in resulting immunoglobulin serum concentration, weight gain or disease frequency were seen in this group of calves compared to a control group given full access to high-quality colostrum. The effect of orally administered bovine immunoglobulin is currently being tested in a calf herd with persistent diarrhea problems. Furthermore, it was shown in a Campylobacter challenge model in chickens that caecal and faecal counts of Campylobacter were between 0.5 and 1.0 logs lower in birds when given 200 mg avian immunoglobulins orally together with the challenge (at day 21 of age) compared to a placebo group receiving immunoglobulin with no reactivity against Campylobacter. While clearly preliminary, these results show that immunoglobulin can be produced from renewable sources at a price enabling passive immunization as a viable strategy for control of infectious diseases in the intensive animal production, with the potential to significantly reduce antibiotics consumption.
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International Symposium: Alternatives to antibiotics (ATA), 2012