Integrated Approach for Mycotoxin and Gut Health Management in Poultry

Economic loss due to mycotoxin
The animal production industry is most commonly affected by mycotoxins. Mycotoxins can cause a variety of economic losses, such as a decline in the quality of feed consumed by animals, which results in feed refusal. In general, the majority of mycotoxins result in immunosuppression, which can weaken an animal’s immune system or reduce its response to immunizations, increasing the animal’s susceptibility to disease. Subclinical effects may cause a loss in productivity, reduced weight gain, and feed efficiency. More specifically Aflatoxins B1 (AFB1), the most common mycotoxin, produced by Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus is primarily hepatotoxic and secondarily nephrotoxic in poultry, reproductive effects are frequently associated with estrogenic mycotoxins like ZEN which may cause infertility in breeders. Trichothecenes can cause weight loss by inhibition of protein synthesis, nutritional impairment as well as immunosuppression. It was estimated that 10 million dollars were lost in India’s exports within a decade due to groundnut contamination with mycotoxins (Vasanthi and Bhat, 1998).

Major Mycotoxin Producing Mold
Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by fungi. When present in animal feed, they can act on the poultry, impairing performance and causing pathological changes called mycotoxicosis. There are many different mycotoxins that, when consumed by animals have undesirable biological effects. High levels of mycotoxins in feed result in the appearance of acute mycotoxicosis and a high mortality rate. Lower levels cause the occurrence of chronic mycotoxicosis with or without manifested clinical symptoms, followed by a considerable decrease in production performance, immunosuppressive effects, and the occurrence of residues in poultry meat and eggs.

In India, the economy of the poultry industry is heavily affected due to wide mycotoxin exposure or contamination of various agricultural commodities. The economic losses associated with mycotoxicosis include decreased growth rate, reduced egg production, reduced feed conversion, increased morbidity and mortality, carcass condemnation, poor eggshell quality, reduced fertility, leg problems, and increased susceptibility to other diseases caused due to their immunosuppressive effects among the affected birds.

Immunosuppression results in increased sensitivity to infective agents and a bad vaccine response. Out of more than 500 mycotoxins identified in nature, Aflatoxins (AF), Ochratoxins (OT), Fumonisins (F), Zearalenone, and Trichothecenes are the most important mycotoxins posing a threat to the poultry industry.

Emerging mycotoxins
Mycotoxins, which are neither routinely analyzed, nor legislatively regulated, however, the evidence of their incidence is rapidly increasing. Emerging mycotoxins (EMs) and their toxicity in foods and feeds have become the subject of an increasing number of studies in recent years due to significant advancements in mycotoxin testing methods and food safety.

Masked Mycotoxin
Certain mycotoxins, including deoxynivalenol, T-2, and HT-2, can bind with proteins or carbohydrates, leading to alterations in their structures depending on the conditions. These particular forms of mycotoxins, where they are bound or conjugated with other components, are referred to as “masked mycotoxins”. Masked mycotoxins are modified versions of mycotoxins that cannot be identified using traditional analytical techniques because their structures have been altered within the plant. While conventional methods like ELISA can detect masked forms.

Risk level of mycotoxins
Mycotoxins harm all species of poultry, and mycotoxicosis can have serious impacts on poultry, thus commercial producers must constantly evaluate and reduce the risk to their production units. The most reliable method of identifying mycotoxicosis in large flocks will need careful monitoring, symptom recognition, and postmortem diagnosis combined with adequate feed analysis.Younger birds are at higher riskbecause their immune systems are not as well-developed, which makes them more sensitive to contaminated feed. The mycotoxin risk level also depends on which mycotoxins are present in the feed and the number of mycotoxins in the feed, since mycotoxins have a greater impact at higher quantities and can have negative, synergistic effects when interacting with othermycotoxins.

Association of mycotoxins with gut health
Upon ingestion of contaminated feed, the GI tract is particularly affected by mycotoxin. Generally, the intestinal barrier in the GI tract functions as a filter against harmful mycotoxins. However, some mycotoxins have been found to exert their detrimental effects in the GI tract. By disrupting intestinal epithelium integrity as well as epithelial cell renewal and repair, resulting in the loss of the intestinal barrier integrity and causing a leaky gut. Mycotoxins are also able to modulate the production of intestinal inflammatory cytokines (IL-1α, IL-1β, IL-8, and tumor necrosis factor-α). Intestinal secretions and the activity of enzymes responsible for the digestion of nutrients can be also affected by some toxins and thus contribute to decreased digestive ability.

Strategic Integrated approach for mycotoxin management and gut health:
There is a crucial interaction between mycotoxins, the gut, and the gut microbiota in poultry health. The mycotoxins and gut microbiota studies have revealed meaningful interactions. The uptake of mycotoxin and subsequent tissue distribution is governed by GI tract absorption, and the presence of microbiota in the GI tract can affect the intestinal barrier.

The presence of mycotoxins in raw materials and finished feeds is a relevant problem in the animal feed industry. These mycotoxins have a negative impact on the health and productivity of breeder, layer and broiler chickens, resulting in significant economic losses. The best way to manage mycotoxin risk is to include products based on melosirata fossilized algae individually or in combination with clinoptilolite and yeast fraction which can help to bind wide range of mycotoxins, support gut health and immunity of the birds.
References are available upon request.

by Dr. Ashok Reddy & Sarwar Ali, Immeureka Animal Health