The GI Tract and Immunity

The GI Tract and Immunity 4 July, 2011
– Dr Rensia Möller

Feed *FOS and **MOS prior to foaling and during vaccinations such as AHS to enhance immunity

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract not only digests food, it also protects the body against pathogens. Simply stated the GI tract has to sort through all the material and differentiate between good guys and bad guys and decide when it wants to attack something.

Prebiotics are inert substances that are designed to help the microbial populations in the hindgut remain stable and healthy. It is possible to stimulate the immune system with products fed to the horse. Alltech, a biotechnology company in Kentucky US, found that certain feed additives stimulate the immune system and help protect against disease.

Research has shown that MOS (mannan oligosaccharides) can boost immunity, both cellular and humoral, and that you can boost immunoglobulins in colostrum by supplementing the dam with MOS prior to foaling. Colostrum is ‘get out of jail free’ cards. If there are more immunoglobulins in that first suckle, you win, as long as the newborn nurses before gut closure.

New technology allows MOS and other prebiotics to be added to feed in order to benefit the immune system, and Epol feeds include this technology into their new updated formulas.

This technology is now commonly used in Europe because those countries are very restricted in legal use of antibiotics in animals. Yet livestock still have disease risks, and stockmen need something that is not an antibiotic and will not build antibiotic resistance, yet still protect the animals. So they are feeding mannan oligosaccharides.

In a world where antibiotics are becoming less effective, the most you can do for the animal is improve its own immunity. Thus, if you can strengthen the animal’s own immune system and help it sort through the good and bad microbes, he can be protected from disease and there will be less reliance on antibiotics.

One way to do that is by competitive exclusion, where you play musical chairs to crowd out the bad guys by feeding the good guys. The fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) materials feed them (pre-biotic) and the MOS materials provide a binding site for the bad ones to stick to like flypaper and take them out of the animal. EquiSupreme Bio-Gest is based on this principle, but also provides nucleotides as building blocks to enhance the rapid turnover of GI villi.

Research on Alltech Bio-Mos (the only MOS product that’s been tested to determine its effects on vaccination) has shown an increase in vaccination titers with certain vaccines. A (manufacturer-conducted) trial in Texas showed that titers to Eastern/Western encephalomyelitis were greater in horses fed a diet containing Bio-Mos compared to the same diet without it. While the exact mechanism is not yet known, it is thought to be due to an adjuvant activity from the Bio-Mos. Adjuvants are added to many vaccines to enhance and prolong the antibody titer in the animal.

*FOS = fructo-oligosaccharides
*MOS = mannan-oligosaccharides

Article Brought to you by:

Dr Rensia Möller
Equine Veterinarian and International Nutritionist

Dr Rensia Möller obtained her Agricultural Science before graduating cum laude for her BScAgric Honours in Equine Nutrition and Genetics. She obtained her Masters in Equine Exercise Physiology and Equine Nutrition at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Faculty before completing her Veterinary Science degree at Onderstepoort cum laude.

She opened an equine veterinary and nutrition practice in 2002, as well as developing her own equine nutritional supplement brand in South Africa. She was appointed manager of Zabeel Feedmill in Dubai in 2006 where she custom designed professional performance equine feeds for various internationally acclaimed trainers including Mike de Kock, competing for the Dubai World Cup, with numerous race winners and success stories on these feeds. She also exclusively developed formulas for the world renowned Godolphin and Darley equine racing and breeding houses.

She is currently on board the dynamic Epol team, doing part-time consultancies for Epol clients, and passionately formulating and upgrading their range e.g. the newly launched long awaited mueslis and the international add-on of the Mike de Kock racing range. She is also available for private client consultancies.

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