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Minimizing negative effects of inflammation on productionMinimizing negative effects of inflammation on production

Controlling inflammation can lead to better feed conversion and improved health.

3 Min Read
Minimizing negative effects of inflammation on production

Minimizing negative effects of inflammation on production
Inflammation can reduce profitability, endanger animal health and reduce end product quality. Inflammation occurs frequently in intensive, modern animal production systems, particularly when antibiotics are being reduced. Controlling inflammation can lead to better feed conversion and improved health for livestock and poultry. Results can be achieved with alternatives to antibiotics in terms of productivity and welfare by managing triggers of inflammation and actively downregulating inflammation.

As livestock and poultry production has intensified, inflammation has become a common issue. It’s a natural process and is connected to desirable outcomes, such as controlled apoptosis; however, it can become uncontrolled. Inflammation becomes a challenge when the up and down regulations of the process are not well matched. Different triggers such as oxidative stress, certain mycotoxins, social stress, fast growth rates and dysbiosis of the gut microbiome can start this process. Several of those inflammation starting points also trigger each other (e.g. social stress leading to dysbiosis), which can lead to a cycle of inflammation.

Figure 1: Cycle of inflammation triggers

Once inflammation has gone beyond the normal level, it becomes very challenging for the animal to regulate it back to normal levels. While inflammation has always posed a challenge in livestock and poultry production, its significance is certainly increasing in modern production systems where routine antibiotic usage has been reduced or discontinued. 

Why is modulating inflammation relevant for livestock and poultry production?
Inflammation costs energy. Simply raising the body temperature of an animal by one degree does not seem significant. However, it’s the first visible sign of any inflammation, typically triggered by IGFα. Even a small increase comes with a large energy expenditure, particularly in smaller animals such as poultry. All energy expenditures come at the cost of feed conversion, affecting the bottom line of producers.

Physiologically, all animals have a prioritization of how energy is used. Immune response and growth are low on the list of priorities where animals spend energy. As long as an animal experiences a shortage of energy due to use on inflammation, it cannot reach its full genetic potential in terms of growth or yield of eggs.

Figure 2: Damaged villi, a gateway for pathogens

Inflammation can cause weakening of the intestinal wall. On a cellular level, the effect can reach from imperfectly closed tight junctions, over reduced mucus, loss of gut structure (decreased villi length and crypt depth) all the way to open lesions. These weakened areas make it easier for pathogens to translocate past the epithelial wall. Even substances such as mycotoxins or contaminants will transverse into the animal at a higher rate when inflammation has weakened the structures.

Managing inflammation
Inflammation has direct effects on productivity, health status of the final product and animal welfare. One solution is addressing the challenge with antibiotic alternatives, providing an anti-inflammatory mode of action. If they are anti-inflammatory, they can positively impact economics and health. Due to the multi-factorial nature of inflammation, a complete solution should ideally rely on more than one substance. Intestinal wall strengthening, intelligent mycotoxin management (binding mycotoxins) and managing the microbiome to prevent dysbiosis all positively affect the animal. Inflammation can only be managed successfully if several of the factors triggering it are actively controlled.


Niewold T.A., The nonantibiotics anti-inflammatory effect of antimicrobial growth promoters, the real mode of action? A hypothesis. 2007 Poult. Sci. 86(4):605-9.

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Guilloteau P., et al. From the gut to the peripheral tissues: the multiple effects of butyrate. 2012 Nutr Res Rev. 23:366–384.

Zhang B., et al. Zinc prevents Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium-induced loss of intestinal mucosal barrier function in broiler chickens. 2012. Avian Pathology. 41:361-367.

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