A natural feed additive that yields performance results comparable to AGP use? It really does exist. Varium® supports a healthy intestinal tract AND can help provide production economics similar to antibiotic-fed birds.
With cutting-edge equipment and state-of-the-art facilities, Amlan’s talented Life Sciences team creates value-adding mineral-based products for poultry and livestock producers. The Richard M. Jaffee Center for Applied Microbiology houses the specialized equipment used by the Life Sciences team who draw upon their extensive research experience and knowledge base to create novel, natural solutions that improve poultry and livestock health and production efficiency.
Life Science Experts
The Amlan research team is led by Life Sciences Director Hongyu Xue MD, PhD, an experienced scientist in clinical and animal nutrition, who brings a unique point of view to Amlan’s research by leveraging his expertise in human medicine. Dr. Xue has a background in academic medicine and research that cross-links gastroenterology, immunology, microbiology and nutrition. Working with Dr. Xue is a multi-disciplinary team of scientists with expertise across microbiology, animal nutrition, chemistry and material science areas. Several members of the Life Sciences team were recently featured on an episode of “Built in America: INNOVATION NATION” on the Fox Business Network, where they showcased some of their novel research.
The Life Sciences team enhances Amlan’s unique mineral to develop natural solutions that can control the microbial pathogens that negatively impact the health and productivity of poultry and livestock. To do this, the scientists study these pathogens and their toxins to understand their physiology and mode of action. Some pathogens require anerobic conditions to survive, so these pathogens are cultivated in Amlan’s anerobic chamber — a more efficient and robust method than alternative techniques such as anerobic jar or pouch systems.
Conditions within the chamber can perfectly mimic the anerobic environment of the distal gastrointestinal (GI) tract (e.g., ileum and cecum) which serves as the primary colonization site for a vast variety of common microbial pathogens for poultry and livestock. The anaerobic chamber is of tremendous value to help Amlan’s scientists cultivate and further characterize the target pathogens and select commensal microbial populations colonizing the distal GI tract. Further, the chamber also enables the scientists to screen novel products in development and evaluate their antimicrobial effects for certain anaerobic pathogens. Novel strains of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) can also be isolated, grown and tested in the anerobic chamber. The photo below shows an example of the zone of inhibition surrounding an Amlan-developed probiotic (right) versus a water control (left).
Further assessment of the new products can be conducted using equipment such as an ICP-OES (inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometer) that allows the team to examine how different cations released by Amlan’s unique mineral affects bacterial virulence. Some metals (cations) are known to suppress the expression of virulence genes in bacterial pathogens.
The lab also includes a fluorescent microscope that enables microbes to be observed instantly to see a product’s effect on bacterial morphology and viability.
Using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR), the Life Sciences team have developed methods to detect toxin genes from microbial pathogens that can have negative effects on poultry and livestock production. Using this information, natural solutions can be developed that disarm these pathogens and help protect birds and animals from disease. For example, real-time PCR is used to investigate the effects of new products on pathogen virulence gene expression. Further, this technology can help determine the copy numbers of specific virulence genes and help make an early diagnosis of specific enteric diseases in poultry and livestock.
The Richard M. Jaffee Center for Applied Microbiology is named after the former chairman of Oil-Dri Corporation of America, doing business as Amlan International. Jaffee’s pioneering spirit and vision for Oil-Dri to conduct research in the life sciences is the influence behind Amlan’s focus on developing value-added next-generation animal health products.
The rise of multi-drug-resistant and mutant bacteria, which don’t respond to antibiotic treatment, is a concerning trend across the world. With the use of antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) restricted in an increasing number of countries, livestock and poultry industries are looking for antibiotic-free alternatives that keep animals and birds healthy and productive. Amlan International’s Richard M. Jaffee Center for Applied Microbiology is developing industry-leading technology that helps livestock and poultry producers achieve peak antibiotic-free-performance.
Discovering new methods to combat the prevalence of resistant and mutant pathogens is just one of the topics scientists at the Richard M. Jaffee Center for Applied Microbiology are investigating. The research team at Amlan’s new state-of-the-art lab are using an antivirulence approach to control pathogens, which has also been a research focus for developing new antimicrobial drugs for humans.
Novel Alternative to Antibiotics
Unlike conventional antibiotics, antivirulence approach targets bacterial virulence factors and is aimed at disarming pathogens and modifying their behaviors by making them less harmful (less virulent) to the host. The likelihood for multi-drug-resistant and mutant bacteria is much less using this approach.
There are many options for controlling pathogens using an antivirulence approach. These antivirulence targets include:
Previous research at Amlan International showed exciting promise in the quorum sensing area. The Richard M. Jaffee Center for Applied Microbiology continues to conduct quorum sensing research as one component of the overall antivirulence approach to improving livestock and poultry health and production.
Bacteria Can Communicate
Quorum sensing is a communication system between bacterial cells that allows bacteria to regulate their activity in response to stimuli. This communication system involves bacteria releasing biochemicals into the environment which accumulate in the surrounding area until reaching a critical threshold concentration1. The biochemicals then bind to receptors on the bacteria, signaling gene expression.
Quorum sensing can control many functions in bacteria2 including:
Virulent gene expression
Quorum Quenching Silences Bacteria
Quorum quenching is an approach which can disrupt the quorum sensing system of pathogenic bacteria, preventing cell-to-cell communication and the expression of virulence genes that could lead to their infection in the host. Quorum quenching products should reduce the chance of antibiotic resistance, since they are modifying bacteria behavior rather than killing them.
Calibrin®-Z Disrupts Quorum Sensing
Evidence of quorum quenching by Amlan’s Calibrin®‑Z biotoxin control product was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The research team at the Richard M. Jaffee Center for Applied Microbiology are continuing to build on these positive results and further quorum sensing research.
The previous study illustrated that in vitro, quorum sensing molecules can be separated out by adsorption or catalytically broken down into small fragments by Calibrin-Z. By reducing the concentration of quorum sensing biochemicals, the products can potentially disrupt the ability of pathogenic bacteria to produce toxins or reduce their virulence, since these functions are controlled through quorum sensing.
Additionally, due to their stronger acidity, greater pore volume and greater surface area, in the same study Calibrin-Z performed better then silica, illite and kaolinite as catalysts/adsorbents in quorum sensing molecule removal.
When incubated with Vibrio harveyi, a bacterium that exhibits bioluminescence controlled via quorum signaling, Calibrin-Z reduced bacterial luminescence by 55% (from the area under the curve; Figure 1). While this demonstrated that interference in quorum sensing occurred, the bacterial numbers were not impacted, indicating the reduction in bioluminescence was achieved through quorum quenching and not by killing bacteria.
Figure 1: Bacterial luminescence from a Vibrio harveyi culture treated with different concentrations of Calibrin-Z. Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) was used as a non-luminescent negative control. At 10 mg/mL, Calibrin-Z reduced bacterial luminescence by 55% (area under the curve).
Quorum sensing is just one of the virulence factors being investigated by the research team at the Richard M. Jaffee Center for Applied Microbiology. Similarly, the antivirulence approach is just one of the next-gen technologies that is being developed in the lab to maximize livestock and poultry producer’s profits by improving the health and productivity of their flock or herd.
Stay tuned for more information about the innovative research conducted inside the Richard M. Jaffee Center for Applied Microbiology.
Naik, S.P., Scholin, J., Ching, S., Chi, F. and Herpfer, M. (2018). Quorum Sensing Disruption in Vibrio harveyi Bacteria by Clay Materials. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 66 (1), 40-44. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.7b03918
Williams, P. (2007) Quorum Sensing, Communication and Cross Kingdom Signalling in the Bacterial World. Microbiology, 153 (12), 3923−3938. DOI: 10.1099/mic.0.2007/012856-0
Products that prevent pathogenic bacteria from communicating with each other? This is just one of the next‑generation technologies that scientists are developing at Amlan International’s innovative new and improved Richard M. Jaffee Center for Applied Microbiology.
Amlan’s commitment to microbiology research began when their original laboratory opened in 2017 and further strengthened with the expansion of the Richard M. Jaffee Center for Applied Microbiology in October 2019. The new center provides the company with a cutting‑edge facility to accelerate novel animal health and life sciences research. With state-of-the-art equipment, the R&D team can isolate and cultivate both beneficial and pathogenic bacteria and investigate the antimicrobial effects of Amlan’s next‑generation, natural products.
The new lab is a certified Biosafety Level 2 laboratory, equipped with the technical and diagnostic resources of a traditional microbiology lab, as well as molecular biology, immunology and cell biology capabilities. It’s located near the company’s original R&D center, the Nick Jaffee Center for Innovation in Vernon Hills, Illinois. The 6,000-square-foot facility houses the life sciences team and a high‑tech laboratory space.
Novel Approach to No-Antibiotics-Ever Production
By developing innovative animal health solutions for Amlan’s customers, the research team is simultaneously tackling the global issue of antibiotic resistance. The scientists are using an antivirulence approach to control enteric disease in livestock by developing products that can modify pathogen behavior, making them less virulent (friendlier). This antivirulence approach can improve the production and health of flocks or herds while reducing the tendency to select for resistant or mutant bacteria that is seen with the use of conventional antibiotics.
“The new lab allows our life science research team to access a wide variety of state-of-the-art equipment, such as real-time PCR, an anaerobic chamber and florescent microscopy,” says Dr. Hongyu Xue, Life Sciences Director at Amlan. “We are trying to disarm the microbial pathogens by targeting their virulence factors in this facility.”
The life sciences team can also analyze the synergistic capabilities of the company’s proprietary enterosorbent mineral formulated with other feed additives, leading to the development of new products that can provide even greater returns on investment for poultry and livestock producers.
By incorporating best production practices, natural feed additive programs and pioneering innovation that targets virulence factors, producers should be able to reduce inputs in animal diets, enhance intestinal health of food animals and improve production efficiency for the entire industry.
“This new lab enables us to bring new ideas and products to the marketplace like never before,” says Flemming Mahs, President, Amlan International. “Science and research are the foundation of our discovery process to improve animal performance by protecting their intestinal health.”
Stay tuned for more information about the innovative research conducted inside the Richard M. Jaffee Center for Applied Microbiology.
Broiler growers worldwide are under pressure to reduce or eliminate growth-promoting antibiotics from bird diets. Promoting intestinal health through improved nutrition and immune system stimulation can help producers successfully replace or reduce antimicrobials without sacrificing bird health or performance.
BY DR HONGYU XUE, LIFE SCIENCES DIRECTOR, AMLAN INTERNATIONAL
Completely removing or significantly reducing the use of antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) raises many issues for broiler producers. Their foremost concerns are whether their grow-out operations can remain competitive, profitable and free from performance-robbing intestinal diseases like necrotic enteritis.
Broiler growers moving to antibiotic-free poultry production now have the advantage of hindsight, unlike those who were impacted by the first antibiotic bans of 20-plus years ago.
Since then, many compounds have been studied for their ability to replace AGPs. Prebiotics, probiotics, enzymes, organ- ic acids, minerals and other additives can be used successfully to manage gut health instead of AGPs. But, and this is a big ca- veat, these products are often used in combination and in- crease feed costs. Formulated feed additives that combine the right ingredients to replace one or more other additives and help birds grow efficiently may be just what today’s broiler producers need. Certain formulated feed additives are de- signed to use different and (ideally) synergistic modes of ac- tion to achieve desired responses. Such products are typically tested by a team of specialists to determine the optimal for- mulation so growers don’t have to experiment. Those factors help formulated products deliver value.
Intestinal health is critical
A healthy gut is essential to a healthy bird. However, the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is the site of substantial disease challenges, including pathogens like Clostridium perfringens, Escherichia coli and Salmonella spp. An effective antibiotic alternative should demonstrate activity in three areas:
The intestinal lumen to reduce bacterial disease challenges,
The intestinal epithelium to strengthen the intestinal barrier,
The gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) to stimulate immune function.
Varium is used worldwide in antibiotic-free poultry production to achieve equivalent outcomes as AGPs, often replacing one or more additional feed additives being used as replacements to AGPs. Multiple controlled studies and field trials demon- strate that Varium, a proprietary formulated feed additive, can replace some or all AGPs use in broiler diets. The components of the all-natural product work synergistically to provide a multifaceted approach to supporting intestinal health and im- munity, promoting efficient feed use and improving overall flock performance, see Figure 1. Those mechanisms of action support bird intestinal health and efficiency by:
Reducing total biotoxin load, which helps protect intestinal homeostasis,
Reducing pathogen load through type-1 fimbriae bacterial adhesion,
Providing enterocytes with a preferred energy source, which enhances the intestinal barrier,
Stimulating the innate and adaptive immune responses to help birds defend against pathogens.
Trials find comparable performance
For broiler producers seeking evidence-based options, pre- adoption trial data from commercial broiler producers in Brazil demonstrate how Varium performs alone or in combi- nation with other feed additives. In a 40-day feeding trial conducted under natural challenge, 2,400 day-old chicks were assigned to one of four treatments (Table 1).
In addition to the specified treatments, all diets included common anti- coccidial treatments. Captured and calculated data included body weight, feed intake, mortality, feed conversion ratio (FCR) and percent mortality. Broilers fed diets containing Varium alone or in combination with other additives had weight gain and FCR comparable to those fed a diet contain- ing two antibiotics, a mycotoxin binder and a probiotic. No significant differences in day-40 weight gain or FCR were de- tected among treatments. However, mortality at day 40 was substantially lower for broilers consuming Varium in their di- ets. Broilers fed diets containing Varium had higher produc- tion efficiency indices (PEI) than the control group. A second trial in Brazil compared the performance of Varium to Tylosin when fed to birds at a commercial broiler grow-out operation that produced about 170,000 birds per day for slaughter. Tylosin at a rate of 55 ppm was added to diets between August 2017 and July 2018. Tylosin and a an enzyme-based mycotox- in deactivator were then removed and Varium was added at a rate of 0.1% from August 2018 through July 2019.
Captured and calculated data included body weight and age at slaughter, average daily gain, FCR, PEI, mortality and liver quality. No significant differences were detected between treatments for FCR, average daily gain, average body weight, average age at slaughter, PEI or percent mortality. Interesting- ly, faeces from broilers fed diets containing the feed additive were firmer, resulting in better quality litter than those birds receiving Tylosin in their diets, see Table 2. Better litter quality means decreased incidence of foot pad dermatitis.
Table 1 – Trial results under natural challenge. Treatments investigated in a 40-day feeding trial with natural challenge
Varium + halquinol + mycotoxin binder + B. subtilis
Va + Vir
Varium + virginiamycin + mycotoxin binder + B. subtilis
Varium (1 kg/MT)
Table 2 – Averages of key performance parameters.
Body weight (kg)
Daily gain (g)
Liver quality (%)
Tylosin + mycotoxin binder
Profitable antibiotic-free production
Intestinal health becomes more important to profitable broiler production as AGPs are removed from bird diets. But it takes the right combination of feed ingredients and additives along with many other factors. Varium is helping commercial producers save money by replacing one or more feed addi- tives in broiler diets while maintaining or improving feed conversion and weight gain and decreasing mortality. Efficient broiler production without AGPs is possible.