Several concepts for alternatives to antibiotic use in feed are being pursued in animal nutrition. Among them probiotics, which have not shown the same potential as antibiotics, are investigated with the aim to beneficially influence the intestinal microbiota to measurably effect performance and health of animals. As quite simple measurable effect in farm animals, probiotics have repeatedly been shown to positively affect weight gain and feed consumption as well as a reduction of diarrhea at critical time points of their life. Many microbial products are available in the EU, but the precise modes of action are still a matter of scientific discussion.
Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates that aim to positively influence the hosts intestinal microbiota by stimulating beneficial bacteria. Therefore, they must not be digested by the host and must be fermented only by a few selected bacterial species such as bifidobacteria or lactobacilli. Their colonization increase is then expected to lead to increased growth or better health for the animal. The Institute of Animal Nutrition carries out microbiological, physiological and immunological studies to investigate the effect of different prebiotics.