ProBe-Bac SE: a new preventive approach for bacterial infection

By | June 6, 2023

Bacteriophages as an alternative to antibiotics

calendar icon June 6, 2023

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5 minute read

Multiple approaches have been used to prevent and treat porcine enteric colibacillosis in an effort to promote health and growth performance, with antibiotics being the most commonly applied option (Castro et al., 2022). Thus, the development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has reduced treatment options for pig farmers and raised public health concerns regarding the potential transfer of AMR genetic determinants into the food chain, water and manure, among others areas, following the growing selective pressure of the use of antibiotics for the treatment of these Escherichia coli infections (Barros et al., 2023). It is essential to take this into account Escherichia coli has a strong ability to acquire resistance genes, primarily by horizontal gene transfer, where mobile genetic elements appear to play a significant role in transmission.

Are there alternatives to antibiotics?

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are rapidly emerging around the world, compromising the efficiency of antimicrobials to transform medicine and save millions of lives. According to the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP), the discovery of antibiotics has transformed the world by curing diseases that were previously fatal. The catastrophe caused by AMR has been associated with the misuse or overuse of these medical treatments. Meanwhile, the One Health approach integrates multiple sectors to enact regulations to prevent devastating AMR outbreaks. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recommends safe and sustainable alternatives to antimicrobials such as probiotics, prebiotics and bacteriophages that could reduce infections, thereby improving animal health (OECD, 2022).

Bacteriophages as a safe and sustainable alternative to antibiotics

Worldwide multidrug resistance calls for the implementation of an alternative way to control infections. The use of bacteriophages is one of the strategies and highly recommended to reduce and eliminate harmful bacteria in animal production (Alomari et al., 2021). Bacteriophages have attracted a lot of attention as a potential workaround considering the reduced efficacy of antibiotics due to AMR. Furthermore, Zbikowska et al. (2020) stated that most studies have focused on the efficacy of bacteriophages in reducing bacterial counts and managing bacterial infections in animals, which are zoonotic and have a substantial impact on public health.

The bacteriophage infects bacteria by adhering to the bacterial cell membrane and injecting its genetic material into the bacterial host. The bacteriophages then multiply through the mechanism of the bacterial host, which causes the bacterial cells to break down. Compared with the antibiotic which may be non-selective, bacteriophages have excellent specificity for target hosts. They could only specifically recognize and attack pathogenic bacteria and not harm humans or other living organisms. This is in agreement with the findings of Upadhaya et al. (2021) that bacteriophages are specialized for certain bacteria and because they only infect one species, serotype or strain, phage therapy has been reported to be safe and effective compared to antibiotics. The proliferation of commensal intestinal bacteria is not hindered by this mechanism of action. By reducing particular pathogenic microbial populations while promoting the proliferation of beneficial microbiota, the use of bacteriophages as a feed additive may be able to offer an integrated strategy to modulate the gut microbiome in animals, leading to improved intestinal health.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed the safety of the use of bacteriophages and approved as a substance generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Henceforth, Pathway Intermediates, together with Optipharm, its leading subsidiary company in the field of animal diagnosis and biomedical research, is making efforts for the development and commercialization of a new bacteriophage solution called ProBe-Bac.

ProBe-Bac: Pathway intermediate bacteriophage solution

ProBe-Bac is Pathway Intermediates’ latest bacteriophage solution. It is a cocktail product that contains a potent blend of carefully selected bacteriophages against specific diseases. The newly developed ProBe-Bac has improved stability and coverage which maximizes efficiency in eliminating bacterial pathogens. Furthermore, ProBe-Bac SE is a product version specifically designed for pigs targeting enteric bacterial diseases such as oedema, colibacillosis, salmonellosis and diarrhoea. The bacteriophages in ProBe-Bac are deposited in the animal’s intestine after ingestion, which selectively kills the pathogenic bacteria in a specific way, improves the intestinal environment and improves the feed efficiency.

Effects of ProBe-Bac SE on the growth performance of piglets

A recently published study by Kingkan et al. (2023) investigated the beneficial effects of ProBe-Bac SE on the growth performance of piglets. The survey was conducted on 800 weaned piglets. Treatments included CST (baseline diet + 160 ppm colistin) and 0.1% PB (baseline diet + 0.1% ProBe-Bac SE).

The feeding trial revealed an improvement in mean daily gain (ADG) for the group of animals that received an inclusion level of 0.1% ProBe-Bac SE (Figure 1). FCR was not different between the two treatments, indicating that ProBe-Bac SE could be an alternative to antibiotics. Promisingly, the overall result was remarkable, revealing that ProBe-Bac SE supplementation improved the growth performance of weaned piglets, and evidently even better than antibiotic treatment.

Figure 1. Effect of ProBe-Bac SE supplementation on growth performance in weaned piglets.

Effects of ProBe-Bac SE on the faecal bacterial population of post-weaning pigs

Another study was conducted in a commercial herd in Thailand to investigate the effect of ProBe-Bac SE supplementation in reducing the faecal bacterial population in pigs compared to zinc oxide, which is commonly used as an alternative to antibiotics. A total of 2,000 post-weaning pigs were randomly assigned to two dietary treatments: CON (commercial diet with zinc oxide) and 0.05% PB (commercial diet without zinc oxide + 0.05% ProBe-Bac SE ).

After 28 days of dietary inclusion of ProBe-Bac SE in the diet of post-weaning piglets, the Enterotoxigenic population Escherichia coli F18 (ETEC F18) decreased by 80% indicating a better effect than zinc oxide treatment (Figure 2). This finding suggests that bacteria may have evolved defense mechanisms and resistance to antimicrobials. Meanwhile, ProBe-Bac SE, the latest bacteriophageal solution that specifically recognizes and attacks the target bacterial host, could be recommended as a replacement for antibiotics that contribute to the growth promotion of pigs.

Figure 2. ETEC F18 gene quantification before and after ProBe-Bac SE integration.


The results revealed that dietary supplementation of ProBe-Bac SE improved the growth performance of weaned piglets, demonstrating an even better effect than antibiotic treatment. Furthermore, the decrease in the ETEC F18 population indicates the excellent efficacy of ProBe-Bac SE compared to other dietary treatments. Collectively, these results suggest that ProBe-Bac SE could be considered a promising alternative to antibiotics, contributing to growth promotion and improvement of intestinal microflora in pigs.

For more information, contact your Pathway Intermediates representative.

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