It comes as a powder to be mixed with the chickens’ drinking water. It helps farmers to promote gut health while avoiding excess use of antibiotics, which can lead to bacteria becoming drug resistant and threatening both human and animal health.
South African microbiologist Dr Deon Neveling invented ProbiGal by isolating beneficial bacteria from healthy free-range chickens. The bacteria were screened for desirable characteristics, including the ability to produce vitamins and antimicrobial compounds, and to bind to chicken gut cells. Neveling and his team tested the probiotic to ensure safety, its effect on the gut microbiome, and its ability to inhibit pathogens in the guts of chickens.
Neveling isolated hundreds of microorganisms from healthy free-range chickens and screened them for various beneficial characteristics. He selected the six most promising strains each targeting a different area of the chicken’s digestive system to strive for complete gut protection.
Salmonella infection studies were conducted, with some chickens given the probiotic and some given an antibiotic. ProbiGal worked as well as antibiotics to reduce Salmonella levels, but also prompted a stronger and faster immune response, leading to more white blood cells to ward off pathogens.
The probiotic also produces antimicrobial compounds and beneficial vitamins for chickens. While other probiotic additives exist, they rarely consist of multiple strains of bacteria and are not designed for specific species. Probiotics consisting of multiple strains and designed specifically for a host are considered more efficient in conferring health benefits.
A kilogram of ProbiGal will cost £74, which can be given as a single dose to 100,000 chickens. Once Neveling has been granted regulatory approval for ProbiGal, he will move into mass production, and aims to develop additional microbial additives for other animals, crops, and soil.
“Antibiotics should only be used for treatment of pathogens which are already present, and never as a preventative measure. We are the first African producer of animal probiotics, and we hope to extend our reach into the continent to assist farmers with sustainable agricultural practices to protect animals and humans from super drug-resistant bacteria.”