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Seaweed used as animal feed could tackle antibiotic resistance

Signal of change / Seaweed used as animal feed could tackle antibiotic resistance

By Carolina Altenburger / 25 Apr 2019

Researchers have found that ordinary brown seaweed synthesises a compound called phlorotannins. This substrate has the ability to kill a sort of bacteria that often emerge among farm animals living in confined space. Depending on the species of seaweed, the different bactericides produced are less or more efficient in their medical power.

Seaweed grows in the ocean and can be harvested from natural stock. To fight the bacteria the plant doesn't need any additional treatment or substances  - it appears to be a natural opponent to this type of bacteria. The effect of the specific feed was discovered due to the especially healthy meat of the Scottish North Ronaldsay sheep: this breed of sheep has been fed only seaweed for generations.

So what?

Modern livestock farming means close confinement for most animals. The small environment and number of animals increase the risks of diseases. To lower the risk, antibiotics are widely included in animal feed.

After over 100 academic studies on antimicrobial resistance detected a link between antibiotics consumed by livestock and antimicrobial resistance in humans the antibiotics were widely exchanged for zinc. The problem is, that now zinc is causing environmental issues, as most of it is excreted by the animals and ends up in waterways and soils. Could seaweed as a natural killer of those bacteria be a potential solution? 

As seaweed can be harvested from natural stock in a rotational manner it appears to be more sustainable to use for the environment. This way of sourcing the plant ensures that natural habitats aren’t plundered which reduces the pressure on agricultural land for animal feed. Might seaweed be an overall better choice as animal feed? 


What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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