Promoting poultry health in a post-antibiotic era

Dr. Alain Riggi, DVM, Global Species Manager – Poultry & Dr. HUSSEIN Yasser, DVM, Poultry Manager – Middle East

poultry post antibiotic

Poultry producers need support to overcome the challenges posed by reducing the use of antibiotics. Phileo has constructed a post-antibiotic program founded on four pillars of quality poultry production: farm management, nutrition, immunity, and gut health. These advanced strategies liberate the poultry industry from antibiotics while maintaining the birds healthy and reaching even better profit.

The routine use of prophylactic antibiotics in poultry farming has led to vastly increased yields, however, such advantages have come at a heavy cost. Antibiotics are only partially metabolised by the animals, therefore resulting in their presence in meat products or in soil and groundwater. Antibiotic growth promoters in meat intended for human consumption is postulated to affect the normal functioning of the human immune system, as well as normal growth and metabolism(1).


Furthermore, antibiotic environmental contamination leads to the development of antibiotic-resistant organisms, with serious consequences. In the 2016 O’Neill report on antimicrobial resistance and drug-resistant infections commissioned by the UK government, they report that 700,000 people are currently dying annually due to drug-resistant diseases. If there are no changes to the way in which antibiotics are used, they predict that this rate could surge, in the world, to 10 million people in 2050, more than the total annual deaths due to cancer(2). As such, the use of antibiotics as growth enhancers is being phased out, since 2016 in EU and today 60% of approximately 60% of U.S. broiler production is antibiotic free. From the 28th of January 2022, in the world, EU will be the first region who will prohibits all forms of routine antibiotic use in farming, including preventative group treatments(3).

Intoduction to a post-antibiotic era

With the development of a novel post-antibiotic program, Phileo provides support to poultry producers in order to successfully transition to post-antibiotic management. Phileo’s comprehensive program comprises four essential pillars of advantageous farm management and biosecurity measures, improved nutrition and feed quality, robust immunity and advanced vaccination strategies, and gut health promotion and pathogen prevention techniques. This program for the four pillars relies on the implementation of effective farm management practices in tandem with the strategic use of three progressive products, Safmannan®, Selsaf®, and Safglucan®. In this article, we will focus on the first pillar, farm management and biosecurity, for which Safmannan® will help.


Safmannan® is a premium-quality yeast postbiotic characterised by consistent high mannan and beta-glucan levels. This postbiotic improves poultry health and yield by optimising intestinal microbiota, reducing pathogen pressure, supporting gut function, and boosting natural defences. Multiple real-world trials have demonstrated that Safmannan® is able to improve poultry growth and feed conversion rates (FCR) to the same extent as antimicrobial growth promoters (AGP) under a variety of conditions such as heat stress or challenge with Clostridium perfringens.


A focus on farm management and biosecurity

Feed supplements alone cannot effectively replicate antibiotic effects without appropriate farm management techniques, thus the first pillar of Phileo’s post-antibiotic program is to focus on improving equipment and processes to provide the best possible foundation for successful poultry farming.


Effective poultry farm biosecurity has a crucial role in mitigating infection and promoting animal health. It relies on implementing physical and methodological zootechnical measures to prevent external pathogens from entering, such as restricting personnel access, limiting entry points, clean shoes and clothing with sanitary zones, water/feed sanitisation, poultry sourcing, vaccination, and feed supplements. These methods, in combination with appropriate farm management practices such as easily cleanable surfaces, routine disinfection, pest prevention and extermination, bird comfort, ventilation, temperature, space, and effective monitoring, can limit existing pathogen proliferation.


Limit pathogen pressure in a more natural way

Even with the latest generation equipment, pathogens from the environment will invariably find their way to get into poultry houses and outbreaks can occur. Under more restrictive rules, poultry producers have less and less possibilities to turn to antibiotics, alternate strategies such as nutritional supplementation must be employed. The yeast postbiotic Safmannan® can help mitigate the costly damage caused by these diseases by reinforcing the birds’ innate immune responses and gut health. In a field trial in Egypt, the effect of Safmannan® feed supplementation was compared in two adjacent houses of laying birds who had been vaccinated against avian influenza H9 (AI H9)  and who received booster shots at week 17 (Figure 1).

poultry graph

Figure 1 – Trial protocol, vaccinated birds were fed either normal mash or mash + Safmannan®

Considering that the last vaccination against AI H9 took place at 17 weeks of age, both groups contracted an unknown wild virus between 23 and 36 weeks, resulting in an increasing antibody titre against the AI H9 virus (Figure 2). The Safmannan® supplemented group had increased egg production, and was not affected by the viral infection as compared to control (Figure 3). This was equivalent to two more eggs per hen, resulting in an increased profit of $6200.

poultry phileo

Figure 2 – Safmannan® supplementation boosted early poultry immune responses against AI H9

graph 3 phileo

Figure 3 – A total of 96.6% of all layers supplemented with Safmannan® were producing eggs by trial end.

Litter quality: A fundamental factor in the post-antibiotic era

In addition to farm management and biosecurity methods, the quality of poultry litter is both a marker and influencer of poultry health. Diarrhea creates wet litter, and is therefore a disease indicator, and could signal enteritis (potentially caused by Clostridium perfringens) or coccidiosis, a parasitic disease caused by coccidian protozoa. Wet litter can quickly propagate disease throughout an entire flock and so requires rapid countermeasures. Effective prophylactic control was developed in the 1970s with the introduction of ionophore anticoccidials, and has increased in the UK poultry industry from 212 tonnes in 2012 to 281 tonnes in 2017(4). However, as the majority of ionophores fed to birds are excreted, these significant quantities can impact both soil and aquatic organisms and promote the rise of resistant microorganisms.


Limiting ionophore use is therefore crucial to mitigating the development of resistant microorganisms. One such alternative is anti-coccidiosis vaccines; however, these vaccines do not appear to have the same effect as ionophores on the incidence of wet litter.


Safmannan® has also been proven to improve litter quality. In a 2016 French study, 4,800 Ross 308 broilers were separated into three groups, two groups were vaccinated with the paracox coccidiosis vaccine at D1 and one group was supplemented with an ionophore anticoccidial. One of the vaccinated groups was also supplemented with Safmannan® at 250 g/tonne until D10, rising to 500 g/tonne to D21, and the dropping to 250 g/tonne until D27. As shown in Figure 4, the percentage of pens with liquid faeces at D21 was significantly lower when vaccinated broilers were supplemented with the yeast postbiotic compared to non-supplemented vaccinated birds, and birds treated solely with the anticoccidial.

graph 4 poultry

Figure 4 – Safmannan® in combination with the paracox vaccine reduced wet litter (orange) compared to the vaccine alone (grey) or the ionophore anticoccidial (blue).

In summary, effective farm management and biosecurity practices in combination with potent nutritional supplementation can simplify the reduction of antibiotic use while maintaining both bird health and profit margins. Therefore, Phileo’s post-antibiotic program based on cutting-edge advances in nutritional feed supplement technology with Safmannan®, Selsaf®, and Safglucan®, enables poultry producers to move beyond antibiotics into a healthier and more productive farming future.


(1) Muhammad, J., Khan, S., Su, J.Q., Hesham, A.E.-L., Ditta, A., Nawab, J., Ali, A., 2020. Antibiotics in poultry manure and their associated health issues: a systematic review. J Soils Sediments 20, 486–497.
(2) O’Neill, J., 2016. Tackling drug-resistant infections globally: final report and recommendations. Wellcome Trust, Government of the United Kingdom.
(3) Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, 2020. New European Union rules on farm antibiotic use.

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