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The s ilent element 16 Sulphur


Sulphur (S) is a widely distributed element in nature playing a key role on diverse biological processes. There is a high amount of scientific interest to better understand the influence of this element on the microbiota, intestinal inflammation and gut health.


BY DIRK SCHAUMLÖFFEL, RESEARCH DIRECTOR AT CNRS/UNIVERSITY OF PAU, FRANCE AND ARTURO PIÑÓN R&D DIRECTOR, ANIMINE FRANCE


I


100 120


20 40 60 80


0 0.37% Ca 1.32% Ca 0.36% Ca n the geosphere, sulphur is the 15th most abundant ele-


ment. In the biosphere, sulphur is even more abundant since it is incorporated in many organic compounds such as amino acids and proteins and hence essential for life.


Chemically, the S atom can be found in all oxidation states between (–II) and (+VI), but only some of them are stable. The common S atom oxidations states are listed in Table 1. Bacteria play an important role conducting the oxidation and reduction reactions leading to these different forms of S.


Sulphur requirements for livestock Sulphur content in the body is approx. 0.15%. Vertebrates are not capable of producing methionine, thiamine and biotin (vitamins B1 and B8) from inorganic S present in the diet. In monogastrics, these essential nutrients must be supplied and there is no dietary requirement for inorganic sulphur. Diets for ruminants however should contain 1000 to 3000 ppm of S/ kg DM as ruminal bacteria can metabolise non- protein nitrogen sources as well as elemental, inorganic and organic S for synthetising sulphur amino acids, B1 and B8


Figure 1 - Relative weight gain (% to control treatment) of broilers fed S-supplemented SBM diets.


Trial 1 (1992) Trial 2 (1994) S content (ppm)


1400 2700 4000 5300


2800 4200 5600


vitamins that can be absorbed by the host later. Still, it is important to consider dietary S and drinking water supply for assessing total sulphur intake level.


Sulphur in the gut: friend or foe? To avoid toxicity, absorbed sulphur is rapidly oxidised in the liver and kidneys. In case of excess, sulphate present in the blood can create a transitional acidosis affecting the ac- id-base balance of the body. According to the NRC (2005), maximum tolerable levels of S in the diet are:


• 5000 ppm for horses. Note: Simple corn and SBM-based diets can usually contain from 100 to 3500 ppm of S. In the 90s, the University of Guelph (Canada) conducted sev- eral trials to assess the response of broiler to inorganic S. In relation to increasing S content, a linear depression in weight gain was reported as a consequence of reduced feed intake and to impaired anion-cation balance (Figure 1). In poultry, S toxicity was also shown to affect bone ash forma- tion as well as ovary function in layers and breeders. In pigs, a good tolerance to dietary S has been reported by the University of Illinois where growth performance or car- cass traits were not affected by up to 4000 ppm of S in corn- SBM/ DDGS diets. However, the USDA has found that a die- tary excess of S (8200 and 12,100 ppm for piglets and 6400 ppm for gilts) has led to reduced ADG. In addition, graded amounts of S resulted for gilts in an increase in manure acidity, N and S content and odour related compounds like H2 SO4


• 3000 ppm for cows and beef • 4000 ppm for swine and poultry


S. Toxic effects of inorganic S salts (e.g.


) in monogastric species are usually related to abnormalities in water balance in the GIT generally manifested as diarrhoea resulting from the osmotic attraction of water into the gut lumen. Additionally, under anaerobic conditions (e.g: in the manure pit or in the litter), excretion of S is rapidly converted into H2


2- S


by sulphate reducing bacteria. The presence of such gas in the barns affects the respiratory tract and animal welfare as H2


S is extremely toxic.


In ruminants, for a long time, Polioencephalomalacia (PEM) was associated with thiamine deficiency. Nowadays, PEM condition is known to be related to an excessive ruminal H2


S


production when S is ingested in excess. The gas is absorbed across the ruminal wall and interferes with cellular energy


70 ▶ GUT HEALTH | DECEMBER 2020


PHOTO: BEN MILLS


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