An exploration of ecological concepts in the context of antimicrobial resistance and the use of phytochemical compounds within the ruminant gut microbiome

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2011-02, 2008-12
Knox, Natalie
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Agricultural Institute of Canada, publisher of Canadian Journal of Plant Science
American Society for Microbiology
Secondary plant metabolites have recently been gaining interest in livestock production systems following the ban of in-feed antibiotics within the European Union. The rise in antimicrobial resistance found in pathogenic and non-pathogenic bacteria has lead to increased interest in the research community regarding the use of phythochemicals as an alternative to antibiotics. The purpose of this research was to evaluate the impact of including phytochemicals in a livestock production system. Specifically, a high tannin-containing forage, sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia), was evaluated in vitro for its antimicrobial effect on Escherichia coli. We determined that phytochemicals alone are not as inhibitory as synthetic antibiotics. Thus, the use of combination therapy to deter the development of antimicrobial resistance was evaluated. A myriad of plant compounds were screened for their synergistic interactions with ciprofloxacin. Geraniol, an essential oil, was identified to possess good antimicrobial activity and synergistic interactions with ciprofloxacin. Therefore the effect of long term exposure to both ciprofloxacin and geraniol were examined. Results demonstrated that once an antimicrobial concentration threshold was reached, resistance to ciprofloxacin increased markedly in the presence of both geraniol and ciprofloxacin. Finally, an in vivo trial was conducted in which forty steers were fed sainfoin or alfalfa over a 9-week period to evaluate its ability to reduce E. coli shedding and its impact on gut microbiota in the context of popular theoretical ecology concepts. Results from the in vivo study indicate that sainfoin was able to promote a slight decrease in generic E. coli shedding which could be maintained throughout the trial. Using high-throughput sequencing, the effect of sainfoin on the microbial ecosystem of the ruminant gut was evaluated. Sainfoin induced a significant shift in the microbial community structure of the rumen and to a lesser extent in the hindgut. Using ecology theories, a hypothesis was formulated regarding the mechanisms that mediate the development of tolerance and the fundamental ecological processes controlling microbial population shifts. Understanding how the gut ecosystem functions and predicting its behaviour in the presence of various fluctuating environmental conditions will enable more efficient manipulation of the rumen and promote best management practices in livestock production.
antibiotic resistance, ruminant gut microbiome, phytochemicals, microbial ecology, condensed tannins
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