Bacillus: from soil bacterium to nature healer

Written by Kevin B.H. Teh (DVM)

Spore-forming Bacillus species have been intensely studied over many years for use in farm animals.  Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus licheniformis are ubiquitous microorganisms that contribute to nutrient cycling. These bacteria are commonly recovered from water, soil, air and decomposing plant residue.  Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus licheniformis demonstrate excellent intrinsic properties and have emerged as the probiotics of choice for livestock applications.

Hard shell

Species of the Bacillus genus produce endospores that are highly resistant to unfavorable environmental conditions including extreme heat and desiccation.

These bacteria have unique cell differentiation properties, forming spores under stress conditions and then re-activating into a vegetative state when the environment is favourable for growth & multiplication.

Each dormant spore comprises a thick shell, resistant to the effects of chemicals, heat, mechanical disruption, UV irradiation and enzymes. Spore forming species such as Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus licheniformis are therefore suitable for use in pelleted livestock feed, which is subjected to extreme heat and pressure

Bacillus species of veterinary importance

The administration of in-feed antibiotics has been widely practiced for the control of infectious agents and for the improvement in productivity in livestock. Overuse of any antibiotic can lead to resistance of pathogenic bacterial populations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) encourage a reduction in the injudicious use of antibiotics in order to decrease the spread of resistant bacteria. The livestock industry is being challenged to limit or withdraw antibiotics completely in response to this situation.  As a result, non-therapeutic products such as probiotics have been introduced as an alternative to in-feed antibiotics.

Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus licheniformis are non-pathogenic microorganisms that offer farmers a viable alternative to in-feed antibiotics for the improvement in productivity in livestock.  According to research studies, multi-strain probiotics are more beneficial than single-strain probiotics.

Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus licheniformis: how to use them to your advantage

Bacillus spores are resilient and maintain their viability during handling, transportation, storage and feed milling.

Research has demonstrated that Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus licheniformis can withstand the gastrointestinal environment and promote the production and proliferation of beneficial bacteria. Adhesion to the intestinal epithelium inhibits growth of pathogenic microorganisms by boosting immunity and by competitive exclusion. 

Probiotics containing Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus licheniformis offer a promising natural alternative to in-feed antibiotics because of their health-promoting benefits and ability to improve performance in livestock.

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