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caeca, in the case of birds, the bacteria recover. In fact, the en- vironment supports them to do so, creating a symbiosis be- tween microbes and host. Here they multiply and feed on the indigestible parts of plant cell wall, such as polysaccharides. In return animals can take advantage of the nutrients bacte- ria produce; including B vitamins and short chain fatty acids like butyrate and propionate.


Enzymes for gut health Enzymes produced in response to infection are the corner- stones of innate immunity. They can help to modulate the host’s immune system when pathogens are present, with some having an antibacterial effect. In the gut, PGN recogni- tion proteins bind to PGN and are able to cleave the molecule into smaller pieces. For example, lysozyme is an endogenous enzyme that can break down PGN, hydrolysing the cell wall of the bacteria and killing it. But a bird with a high feed intake like a broiler cannot make enough lysozyme to breakdown the amount of PGN present in its gut. Muramidases are en- zymes that can breakdown PGN, forming muramyldipeptide (MDP). It does this by breaking the bond between the two sugars that make up the backbone of peptidoglycan.


Inflammatory effects If severe inflammation occurs in the gut it has a negative effect on animal performance, because it tells the gut to stop absorbing nutrients – making more nutrients available to bacteria. If nutrients aren’t absorbed in the small intestine, they pass into the large intestine, feeding bacteria instead of the animal, a process that favours pathogenic bacteria (like Salmonella). There is a double negative effect – nutrients are not available for growth but instead cause an unfavourable shift in the microflora of the caeca. The opposite side of the ‘scales’ are NOD2 sensors that are involved in barrier protection and surveillance at the cell wall. MDP, released from the total breakdown of PGN is taken up by epithelial cells. This activates NOD2 to tell the body that the threat is passed, and it is safe to start absorbing nutrients again. This


negative feedback loop has anti-inflammatory action.


Exploiting the mechanisms If synthetic muramidase* is added to the feed, more PGN is broken down; resulting in a balance between anti- and pro- inflammatory responses. It is impossible to break down all the PGN in an animal’s gut. In fact, it would not be beneficial to do so as TLR-2 responses are essential to animals’ immunity. Instead it is the tight junctions that should be maintained in order to stop PGN reaching the receptors. The release of MDP has a direct effect in the small intestine by continuously activating NOD2 receptors, it switches off inflammation and switches back on nutrient absorption. So that the bird is gets all the nutrients it needs for optimal performance.


Achieving a balance Bacteria are everywhere, they co-evolved with us and we can’t escape them. This means that the risk of PGN to intesti- nal health and optimum production is constant. Under com- mercial conditions animals do not have sufficient endoge- nous enzymes to breakdown PGN effectively. Supplementing with gut health enzymes such as muramidases, optimises this process and by acting only on dead bacteria supports a bene- ficial microbiome. The MDP released switches the animal from inflammation to the healthy situation of optimum nutri- ent absorption; avoiding an excessive immune response that has a negative effect on animal performance. This novel enzyme category has a completely different, but complementary, mode of action to traditional feed enzymes. They can work together with traditional feed enzymes to im- prove the sustainability of animal production. The answer to the riddle posed in the title is that whilst feed enzymes hy- drolyse nutrients to improve what is available for the bird. Gut health enzymes help to break down an inevitable waste product – PGN – and in so doing improve the efficiency of the bird’s digestive and immune systems. *Balancius from DSM


References available on request ▶ GUT HEALTH | DECEMBER 2020 23


Balance in inflammatory responses


means a healthy gut and increases efficiency.


PHOTO: DSM


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