Prebiotics and Probiotics

The incidence of salmonellosis appears to be increasing and various methods of control are available. Salmonella gallinarium can persist in faeces for over a month and Salmonella pullorum can be transmitted to the offspring via the egg. One of a number of workable solutions includes the use of Probiotics in which single, two or three strains of lactic acid bacteria have been successful in controlling pathogens. The desire to utilize probiotics for the prevention of disease rather than using antibiotics led us to try PrimaLac® ( Nuhn Bio - Tech at 1-800-965-9127 for Canada) as an addition to the drinking water of our racing pigeons in 2002. However, one always tries to improve and the thought occured that it may be more beneficial to look for a probiotic which consists of bacteria specific for the intestine of pigeons. More recent studies by Rinkinen M. et al indicate, however, that probiotics are not host specific.
Nevertheless, a "host specific" product is marketed in Germany under the name TS-6, containing Lactobacillus salivarius. This organism was isolated from pigeons in exceptional health and it was speculated that it would be easy to colonize this organism in the intestinal tract of pigeons. However, the advice by the manufacturer to continually keep supplying this organism to the birds may not only be a marketing strategy but also an indication that colonization is less than would be desirable. Further, a culture of only one strain of bacteria is quite limited, especially when various studies have shown that the higher the number of intestinal bacteria and the greater the variety, the more the likelihood that undesirable or pathogenic organisms can be kept from colonizing the gastrointestinal tract. A partial solution may possibly be found in the daily use of Acid-Pak 4-Way W.S.2X which can be considered a Prebiotic. Used at the rate of ½ tsp per 4l of water, Acid-Pak 4-way decreases the water ph to 3-3.5, lowers the ph in the crop (in the absence of any feed) and allows lactic acid producing organisms passage through the intestinal tract while discouraging the passage of pathogenic bacteria which prefer a higher ph. An organic acid is preferable to an inorganic one as it can be digested further down the gastrointestinal tract and does not affect the electrolyte balance.
However I was able to find only one study 1 showing Acid-Pak to be capable of preventing the colonization by Salmonella, but this study was done by scientists working for the manufacturer which raises some concerns. Another study 2 on the use of Acid-Pak 4-Way in pigs showing that it had no effect on the colonization of Salmonella. Further to that are studies (for example 3 ) which show that some Salmonella have no difficulty surviving in an acidic environment.
However, why not use lactose instead? There are so many studies 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 showing beneficial effects through the use of lactose, a ready source of which is skim milk which can be added to the drinking water instead of Acid-Pak.
Some concern has been raised about lactose promoting also the growth of Escherichia coli but these concerns can be laid to rest when one considers that
In other studies,
The following was taken from the entry in our Diary of June 23, 2003 of http://www.albertaclassic.com/cgi-bin/calendar.pl?config=calendar.cfg:

An Ounce of Prevention ...

Another bird showed signs of CNS Salmonellosis this evening. It's a pity because like most other birds infected with Salmonella she had no YBS problem.
There are always some lofts more affected with any disease than some other lofts and YBS is no exception. I had a lot of problems with YBS especially from one loft these past couple of years but there have been no losses from that loft this year. What a difference from years past!
    I therefore emailed the loft's manager this morning:
  • Have you made any changes regarding your breeding loft or young bird management from last year? The reason that I ask this is that, although Young Bird Sickness is presently causing losses in my loft, your birds are still doing fine.
    And here is his reply for which we all should be grateful:
  • Yes - I did make a change in my breeding loft and management this year. I found a pro-biotic water additive from Siegel called Health Gard which I add to the fresh drinking water every day @ a ratio of 1 teaspoon to 4 liters of water. In their description of this product they stated that in their testing they used it on their birds whose youngsters were shipped to several Y/B derbies in the U.S. The results were that in spite of the occurence of sickness in those lofts their own birds always remained healthy. It appears to be a good product and I can certainly recommend it. I start using it while the birds sit the first round and then for the full breeding season. My own Y/B team is also in very good health but I'm sure that the assembly of youngsters from all over the country put a lot of stress on the overall health factor. Reports from other lofts where I have sent youngsters are also very positive.
It is my opinion that there are other good probiotics available but the important point is that probiotics can be beneficial. They have to be started early in the breeding loft. Exposure by the youngster to these bacteria stimulates the youngster's immune system with the result of getting a strong and robust individual, ready to fight most infections it is confronted with. Should you purchase a commercial product for probiotic use, please be certain that these bacteria are alive! What could have been the best probiotic in the world is completely useless if the micro-organism are dead. One can check this by adding a bit of this probiotic powder to some distilled water and milk powder. Let it stand at room temperature. If that milk has not curdled in a day at 35°C, the probiotic in it is very likely no longer alive and is therefore useless for our purposes.

One of my friends could not get his "probiotic" to curdle milk in a day and wrote the company in question about his difficulty. Here is part of the answer of the company's microbiologist:
"From personal experience I have never had success growing any lactic acid bacteria in milk. I realize conventional wisdom and teaching says that Lactobacilli will grow and curdle milk media. We were taught that in college (Litmus milk was the media we were taught to use in college classroom lectures). However, in the afternoon in the lab, we could never get a reliable response from Lactobacilli in milk. Occasionally some species of L. bulgaricus would grow, but not any of the bacteria used in probiotics. So, I never use milk as a determining media in Lactobacillus analysis."
The above disturbed me enough to get some pure culture of Lactobacillus acidophilus which I attempted to grow:

The lesson from the above is that one should never ignore one's own common sense and believe blindly the advice of some authority.


From reading the references I cited in the various pages on probiotics it should be obvious that the use of probiotics can have many desirable consequences for us as well as for the livestock under our care.

Large One Loft Derbies are often plagued with disease outbreaks and I was consequently curious as to whether the strengthening of the immune system through the early administration of probiotics would be beneficial for the youngsters participating in such an event.

    12 young birds were treated in the following fashion:
  • One randomly chosen youngster of each of 6 nests was marked at hatching and received a drop of a probiotic mixture by mouth while the nest mate received the same amount of water every day until the birds were ready to wean at 25 days of age.
  • All of these young birds were entered in and shipped to the same large derby.
  • The birds receiving the probiotics did not perform any better than their nest mates.

The above is, however, no indication that the use of probiotics is without any value. It is possible that the young and immature immune system was unable to respond to the challenge or was overwhelmed by the challenge resulting in a setback rather than a beneficial change.

In 2004 I was supplying my old birds a mixture of various probiotics on their daily grain and was pleased with their health indicated by their eagerness to exercise. These birds received this mixture daily without any ill effects.

An interesting parallel:
Original article can be found at http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/2007/11/13/fecal-transplant.html

Don't poo-poo technique: Fecal transplant can cure superbug, doctors say

More than 90 per cent of C. difficile patients are cured by fecal transplants, studies suggest.

Last Updated: Tuesday, November 13, 2007 | 10:17 AM MT

A controversial new treatment, which involves the transplantation of human waste, can treat cases of C. difficile infection. But only a handful of physicians in Canada undertake the messy procedure.
Left unchecked, C. difficile bacteria can cause chronic diarrhea, leaving sufferers virtually confined to their bathrooms.(CBC)
Clostridium difficile is a super bug that commonly spreads in hospital settings and has been linked to the deaths of at least 2,000 people in Quebec since 2003, as well as in other provinces.
Though C. difficile can be kept in check by good bacteria in the bowel, problems can arise when the super bug is treated by antibiotics such as vancomycin. The antibiotics sometimes wipe out the good bacteria but fail to completely kill the C. difficile — leaving enough of it that it later flourishes.
"If you wipe out the normal bacteria by taking an antibiotic, then this bug overgrows and it releases a toxin which causes severe diarrhea," Dr. Mike Silverman, an internal medicine specialist from Ajax, Ont., told CBC News.
According to him, the diarrhea can become chronic day after day and month after month. "It's painful, people can't get on with their lives … and if doctors can't keep a patient hydrated and nourished, it can be deadly."
Calgary resident Dorothy Badry battled C. difficile for almost a year in 2004.
"You are going to the bathroom at least 40 times a day. And there is a lot of pain associated with that. Your skin starts to break down and the process is extremely painful."
During that time, Badry could not work and could not care for her disabled daughter. "I basically had to give up everything," she said.

Calgary doctor is one of few doing transplants

Fecal transplants have become the first-line treatment for chronic recurrent C. difficile in Scandinavia. As well, more and more doctors are using it in the United States.
Studies that have been published show that more than 90 per cent of patients are cured through fecal transplants — most of them after just one treatment.
But only a handful of doctors in Canada are willing to undertake the unpleasant procedure which involves taking a healthy person's fecal matter and transplanting it into a person infected with C. difficile.
They cite sanitation reasons for their hesitation.
Calgary physician Dr. Tom Louie, head of infection control at Foothills Hospital, is one of the few physicians in Canada who treats patients with chronic C. difficile with fecal transplants, or fecal therapy. He has done 38 procedures to date.
The procedure involves getting a close relative of the patient, such as a sibling, to donate several days-worth of stool. Louie tests the stool for diseases such as hepatitis and HIV and then mixes it with saline to create liquid feces. He then administers the stool to the patient through a barium enema.
Louie said the technique allows good bacteria from the transplanted stool to reduce the number of C. difficile bacteria in the intestines and to restore normal intestinal function.
He said the process is fairly quick. "It takes me about an hour and I leave it in there overnight. I'm hoping that some of these normal bugs will come and find a home, and when they find a home it will kick out the C. difficile."

'It cured me,' Toronto woman says

Marcia Munro, a Toronto resident, received a fecal transplant from her sister Wendy Sinukoff after suffering from C. difficile for 14 months several years ago.
'This procedure cured me.… I know many people die from C. difficile and I want people to know there is hope when you have this illness.'—Marcia Munro
"I had to collect stool samples for five days prior to our leaving Toronto, and I collected it in an ice cream container and kept it in the fridge," said Sinukoff.
She had to then fly the samples to Calgary so that Louie could transplant it into her sister — a process that involved getting the sample through airport security.
"My biggest fear was that my samples were not allowed to be frozen, so I had to take them as carry-on luggage in the airplane and I was terrified that I was going to be asked to have my luggage searched," she said.
Munro said the transplant was a success.
"It cured me. This procedure cured me and one of reasons I agreed to do this story — because it's difficult to talk about — is I know many people die from C. difficile and I want people to know there is hope when you have this illness."
This page was last up-dated on January 10, 2005

Below are your comments:
Friday June 18, 2004
Robert Lynch
Tifton, GA
Very interesting article on the use of pre- and probiotics. I have been using probiotics and Health Gard on all birds in my loft in 2004 and have the healthiest birds ever. Also, I tested Primalac on powdered milk as you suggested and found it curdled the milk after 24 hours. You have an excellent website and I enjoy reading your articles.
Thursday September 2, 2004
nico adams
witbank, south africa
please let me know if healthgaurd is available here by us and if not how can i get it having problems for the first time with YBS unknown here by us. Thank You very much Nico
Friday September 3, 2004
Karl Frank
Edmonton, AB
Hi Nico!
I don't think that Siegel works in your country but you can import it from the USA. Regrettably, probiotics work only as a prevention and not as a cure. Siegel's web site: http://www.siegelpigeons.com/catalog-pro-biotics.html
Currently I do not use Siegel's product but a more complicated management practice which can be found at http://www.albertaclassic.com/Calendar/2004/September1.php
I am sure that there are "many ways which lead to Rome". I wish you good luck whichever one you choose.
Thursday June 12, 2014
Jonathan Maloney
Montreal, QC
Hello! Very interesting and informative website, by the way! Any idea where and/or how I can purchase Health Gard Probiotics in Canada ? I placed an order with Siegels for a quart a Health Gard, along with a bottle of Moxidectin Plus, but received an answer reading "Sorry, but we do not ship out any medications out of the country. Your order has been cancelled". I initially thought Moxidectin Plus was the problem, and that they'd still be able to send the probiotics, but they replied in the negative. I haven't been able to locate either product anywhere else. Any help is greatly appreciated!
Friday December 25, 2015
art lepatsky
Edmonton, Ab
I have found that I get very good results for probiotics by putting one capsule for human use(bought at a drugstore) I use the type that has 10 different strains of bacteria. To a gal of dechlorinated water I add 1.5 teaspoon of white sugar and two tablespoons of milk. Skim milk is best but any would work. Let it stand for two days or so. Once the milk is curdled it is ready. Dump any chlorinated water you may have in your water containers and use this. I have had birds with diarrhea and it was gone in a day, works very well. Leave a little in the bottom of your container to add to to make a new batch. I have also used bird/reptile probiotics in the same way and had the same good results.

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