Tuesday, March 1, 2016

01/03/2016: Gut health in 4 (easy) steps

by Rui Gonçalves, Scientist, Gonçalo Santos, R&D Manager at BIOMIN

First published in International Aquafeed, January-February 2016

Much has been made of gut health recently. By unpacking the concept, we can arrive at a better understanding of the driving factors, influences, indicators and implications of gut health for aquaculture.

1 - Gut health is crucial for aquaculture

One of the first challenges that we face in aquaculture is precisely the environment where fish live, breathe, eat and defecate: the water. In aquaculture, fish and shrimp live in close connection with the surrounding environment. Through the ingestion of water, aquatic farmed animals constantly face pathogens and environmental stress in the gut. If we would compare, for example, the amount of bacteria in air and water, you will be faced with about 1,000,000 bacteria per millilitre of water in coastal areas. In aquaculture systems or special in intensive systems, this number will be considerably higher. Adding to this, most bacteria found in aquatic environments are opportunistic, and therefore have the potential to become pathogenic. Good gut health is important in limiting the risk.
2 - Defining gut health
The term ‘gut health’ is part of a complex animal health definition that relies on a diverse set of gut performance indicators (depicted in lower portion of Figure 1). In aquaculture, the diversity of farmed species makes this even more complex. We would say that the key feature of the gastrointestinal tract comprises its ability to digest feed and make it suitable for absorption and growth under healthy conditions, e.g. in the absence of disease, leading to improved animal performance. At BIOMIN we define gut performance management according to three objectives (Table 1).

3 - Understanding gut health as a whole

Understanding gut health requires the elucidation of the complex interactions between different components that will allow the gut to perform under normal physiological functions and to maintain homeostasis, thereby supporting its ability to withstand infections and non-infectious stressors. Such complex interactions can be grouped in three pillars: animal physiology, nutrition and environment (shown as main categories in Figure 1). These three main factors interact, influencing the gastrointestinal microbiota community, and consequently, gut performance.

Read the full article in International Aquafeed HERE

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