Protein from llamas will be replicated in a laboratory and, in the long-term, could form part of the solution to phase out the therapeutic use of zinc. Photo: Colourbox

Protein from llamas will be replicated in a laboratory and, in the long-term, could form part of the solution to phase out the therapeutic use of zinc. Photo: Colourbox

Llama protein could play a part in Danish pig production

Can proteins from llamas be used instead of medicinal zinc for treating piglets? SEGES, Danish Agriculture & Food Council is conducting research into this alongside Danish companies and research institutions.

SEGES Danish Pig Research Centre is actively looking into new solutions that can be used as an alternative to medicinal zinc. The organisation has set up a zinc contingency team comprising experts who are testing new means and methods to achieve the goal of zero use of medicinal zinc in pig production. The latest research has been carried out in collaboration with the Danish companies, Bactolife and Novozymes, as well as Denmark’s Technical University. Scientists from Bactolife have discovered that a protein from llamas can possibly be used as so-called nanobodies that can kill E.coli bacteria, one of the causes of diarrhoea in piglets, without using either medicinal zinc or antibiotics.

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"Nanobodies are binding proteins that can connect to specific types of bacteria, which can then be neutralised, probably without any resistance being developed. In this case, a specific type of E.coli, which is the bacteria that causes weaning diarrhoea in piglets,” says Sandra Wingaard Thrane, Senior Researcher and co-founder of Bactolife ApS.

Largescale trials
The product to be tested is known as Ablacto+. It has already been trialled on live pigs and proved effective at reducing the bacteria that causes weaning diarrhoea. With funding from GUDP, Green Development and Demonstration Project, under the auspices of Denmark’s Ministry of Environment and Food, it is now being trialled on a largescale, with SEGES Danish Pig Research Centre playing a significant role.

"The results so far seem promising. We now have to test it under production conditions on Danish pig farms. We have a great deal of experience of doing this at SEGES because we are constantly testing and developing concepts for future pig production” says Nicolai Rosager Weber, Veterinarian at SEGES Danish Pig Research Centre.

Read also: Focus on animal welfare, the environment, the climate and the market

It is hoped that Ablacto+ can progress from concept to product and will be ready for approval and marketing in the long-term. If this is successful, this is good news, not just for Bactolife, which is developing the product, but also for Danish pig production.

"There is no doubt that Danish pig producers would like to reduce antibiotic consumption even further and stop using zinc. However, this requires a viable alternative, which is not an antibiotic. If Ablacto+ works, it will be ground-breaking. But time will show,” says Nicolai Rosager Weber.

The project is supported by GUDP under Denmark’s Ministry of Environment and Food.

FACTS:
About SEGES zinc contingency team

The phasing out of the therapeutic use of zinc is a fact, which has to be completed no later than 2022. SEGES Danish Pig Research Centre wishes to assist pig producers with scientific solutions to reduce the negative effect that this will have on both the frequency of diarrhoea, productivity and production costs. A contingency team has been established comprising health, feed and environmental experts.  

If you have questions regarding the project, feel free to contact Veterinarian Nicolai Rosager Weber, SEGES Danish Pig Research Centre: nirw@seges.dk.