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Aquaculture activities. (Photo Credit: The Aquaculture Communications Group)

Beta-glucan has become a natural alternative against diseases

Wednesday, August 28, 2013, 08:10 (GMT + 9)

The introduction of alternative environmentally-friendly methods of disease control in fish through fish feed can significantly offer a significant aquaculture boost, the authors of a new study claim.

This statement arises from the first results that were released from NEMO project, whose formal name is ‘Training network on protective immune modulation in warm water fish by feeding glucans.’

This initiative, whose aim is to research the different aspects of beta-glucan (β-glucan) activity in fish, was developed between 2008 and 2012 with the participation of nine partners from the business and research industries.

NEMO project was created for the search of an effective prevention of disease as a response to increasing the animal’s overall resistance to infection and improving optimal health through the use of more natural products and processes. Its goal was to find environmentally-friendly solutions to prevent infection and treat disease point towards alternatives to antibiotic and chemical drugs through diet formulation and feed production as food is the essential requirement for any livestock.

β-glucans are monosaccharides present in various organic substances such as cereals, mushrooms, yeast cell walls and algae. They have been long known for their anticancer effects as well as their ability to reduce sugar and lipid levels in the blood. Additionally, they are being used in various veterinary disciplines because they stimulate the animals’ immune system.

At present, β-glucans are available commercially in different forms and are being produced from yeast species approved for domestic animal use both in the EU and worldwide. To be effectively used in aquaculture, they have to be incorporated in the fish feed so that the fish are not stressed since this condition can lead to disease outbreaks.

What NEMO project aimed to do was to try and establish the best way of strategically improve fish health using β-glucans. This involved maximizing the β-glucans’ immune stimulating effects and observe how these simple sugars affected the fish’s innate immunological reaction.  

NEMO’s research shows that  β-glucans effectively stimulates important immune protein production such CRP (C-reactive protein) and complement proteins, which play an important part in the immunological protection of farmed fish.

As part of the research, several viruses were artificially induced in tested fish and those fed with β-glucans healed significantly faster and better, proving the beneficial effects of these monosaccharides in tissue regeneration processes (wound healing). 

However, the studies also showed that β-glucans have no direct effect on carp tissue regeneration, rather a combined interaction of immune cells and tissue is needed for β-glucans to improve wound healing.

Besides, the research also showed that β-glucans fed to farmed fish, particularly the mirror carp (Cyprinus carpio L.) improved growth performance parameters and increased the leucocytes (disease-fighting antibodies) in a significant way.

The NEMO research results show that β-glucans can be a cost-effective alternative to improve and stimulate the fish immunological system, making it a more natural option than vaccines or antibiotics.

This research project was allocated by the European Commission and was funded by the Marie Curie Initial Training Networks (ITN) programme.

By Gabriela Raffaele


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