The population in East Africa like any other developing country is rapidly growing and is characterized by rural-urban migration. With more than half of the population now staying in urban centers, the demand for cheap protein sources like eggs, chicken, milk, and beef is increasing and imposing food security challenges. To meet this growing demand for food, poultry and pig farmers have considered doing intensive production in order to produce more. Despite the benefit of increased production, Intensive livestock production has created major public health issues including;

  1. Sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics as growth promoters (AGP) in animal feed which has evoked widespread health concern, with their use banned in many countries, including the European Union (EU), due to the potential to develop antibiotic resistance in microbial populations associated with human and animal diseases.
  2. Foodborne zoonotic diseases like salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis and pathogenic Escherichia coli infection, among others, are serious public health concerns around the world and has caused serious economic losses.
  3. Increase in enteric diseases of poultry, like necrotic enteritis and coccidiosis, has caused huge economic losses to the industry.

The increasing intensification of poultry and swine production with consequent imprudent use of antibiotic growth promoters poses risks to human and animal health in terms of increasing antibiotic resistance in pathogenic micro-organisms. However, research now shows that Probiotics offers the best alternative to antibiotic growth promoters (AGP).They are considered safe for use in animal feed because most of the micro-organisms in probiotics have been in use traditionally in various fermented food. Second, they are naturally present in the gastrointestinal tract and other sites in humans in large quantities; and third, infections associated with this micro-organism used as probiotics are extremely rare

What is a Probiotics

 A Probiotics is a live microbial feed supplement which confers health benefits to the host animal by improving the intestinal microbial balance. They are produced commercially through a fermentation process with species-and strain-specific temperature and pH, and mostly dried by a freeze-drying or spray drying process. Micro-organisms used as probiotics for animal feed are selected on the basis of:

  1. Their ability to withstand low pH and high concentrations of bile acids in the gastro-intestinal environment
  2. Their ability to tolerate the manufacturing, transportation, storage and application processes, maintaining its viability and desirable characteristics
ALSO READ  Abuse of antibiotics in animals a ticking health bomb

Spore-forming bacteria, particularly from the genus Bacillus, are increasingly being used as probiotics. Bacillus spores are resistant to physical and environmental factors, such as heat, desiccation and UV radiation enabling them to maintain their viability. Available in the East African market, for poultry and swine feed, is Ecobiol® from Evonik Industries which is a preparation of Bacillus amyloliquefaciens spores.

How Does Probiotics Work Probiotics increase the population of beneficial micro-organisms including lactobacilli and bifidobacteria which then inhibit the growth of harmful micro-organisms, by producing inhibiting substances such as bacteriocins and/or organic acids, and by competitive exclusion. Probiotics prevent chronic inflammation of the gastro -intestinal tract (GIT), through stimulation of innate immunity in the gastro-intestinal epithelium. Experiments in animal models, have shown that improvement in intestinal barrier function by probiotics, is due to a reduction in the permeability of the intestinal epithelium. Probiotics affect quorum sensing (communication among bacteria) in pathogenic bacteria, thus influencing their pathogenicity through quorum quenching (producing chemicals that block communication between pathogenic bacteria hence preventing their virulence).

Probiotic Application in Poultry When chicks are hatched artificially using incubators or from mother hen in natural hatching situation, their GIT or Intestines are sterile (not colonized by any micro-organisms).

The GIT of birds reared naturally will eventually be colonized by micro-organisms, generally originating from the adult/ hen.

These micro-organisms provide protection from enteric pathogens. Intensification of poultry production has reduced the opportunity for natural colonization of the GIT, making animals more susceptible to intestinal pathogen challenge.

So Probiotics will mimic natural colonization in chicks or colonize adult animals, preventing pathogenic organisms from colonizing the intestinal mucosa.

Benefits of probiotics in commercial poultry production Use of probiotics in Poultry feed improves chicken growth rates, and prevents enteric diseases, including; salmonellosis, necrotic enteritis, and coccidiosis. Probiotics have enhanced the growth rate in broilers better than AGP. Probiotics also improve FCR( Feed conversion rate) in poultry without significantly altering feed intake. Necrotic enteritis (NE) caused by Clostridium perfringens, is an economically important disease in poultry due to its high prevalence, causing significant economic loss to the industry worldwide.

Incorporating probiotics in feed, helps reduce the severity of intestinal lesions, and significantly reduces the number of pathogen cells in the GIT. Probiotics also produce a heat resistant and anticlostridial factor, which controls clostridial infections caused by Clostridium perfringens. Coccidiosis caused by Eimeria protozoa, is the most important protozoan parasitic disease of poultry, due to its ubiquitous nature, high rate of resistance to anticoccidial drugs, and severe economic consequences for infected flocks.

ALSO READ  Northern Kenya poultry company bags top African award

 Probiotics help in maintaining intestinal health and significantly reduce shedding of oocysts from infected birds, thereby reducing the spread of disease.

Factors to consider when selecting a Probiotic

• It should be non-pathogenic

• It should be resistant to gastric pH and bile • It should be stable under processing (Pelleting) and storage conditions

• It should have a high growth rate and persistence in the gastro -intestinal tract

• It should be able to produce anti-microbial compounds • It should be able to Modulate Immune response

Evonik Industries has developed a probiotic called Ecobiol®. A lot of research done has been done on Ecobiol® that explains clearly, and proves its mode of action and efficacy, a phenomenon that is lacking in a number of probiotics currently in the market. This has made Ecobiol® a probiotic of choice in Europe, Africa and other parts of the world, because the product has a backing of strong scientific data, with highly consistent results. Ecobiol®, can be blended into premixes and compound feed and pelleted up to 115°C without loss of efficacy. For compounded feed, the inclusion rate is 500g/MT.

Why is Ecobiol® a probiotic of choice in many parts of the world?

 • It is registered in EU meeting all safety standards

• It is compatible with other feed additives including; Organic acids, AGPs and Coccidiostats

• It is heat stable with excellent recovery from feed up to 115°C and can withstand low pH of 2-3

• It has a higher growth curve as opposed to other probiotics in the market and can remain in the gut for at least 3 days

• Its potency against Salmonella spp and Clostridium perfringes has been proven in vivo and in vitro

Proven mechanisms of action of Ecobiol®

• Secretion of high amounts of lactic acid which lowers pH in the gut reducing pathogen load


• Blocking communication between pathogenic bacteria (Quorum sensing and Quorum Quenching)

• Modulation of the innate immune system

• Secretion of a wide range of antimicrobial substances/secondary metabolites

• Production of enzyme RNase which prevent replication of pathogenic bacteria a phenomenon called Barnase activity.

The consumer market has become more concerned with food safety, and is demanding for food that’s is free from antibiotics and pathogenic bacteria. A viable alternative to AGP, like Ecobiol® is available to help livestock producers, and animal feed manufacturers, produce drug and pathogen-free protein sources like chicken and Pork, despite the challenges that come with intensive livestock production at the farm level. We may never phase out antibiotics completely but prudent use of antibiotics both by humans and in animal production has now become a global focus. It is evident that for sick animals antibiotics are and will continue to be of utmost importance but, the responsibility of production of safe food starts with raising of healthy livestock free of antibiotic and pathogenic bacteria at the farm level. We at Evonik East Africa will be more than willing to discuss this topic further and assist livestock producers and animal feed manufacturers, to actualize this scientific fact of global concern. Feel free to contact us on:

Email ( or phone number +254 724 321 421


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here