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2018-101: Proof of concept study for the delivery of a respiratory probiotic to feedlot cattle via the feed.

Researcher: Dr Murray Jelinski

Funding: $36,783

Methods to reduce the need for antibiotics are not only desired by consumers but are cost effective for producers. Probiotics have been useful in human health to reduce upper respiratory tract infections. This research will investigate if probiotics could also be top-dressed into feed so that cattle could inhale them nasally, to combat respiratory illnesses in feedlot calves.


Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis), the bacteria, has been known to cause or significantly contribute to infections such as mastitis, arthritis, and pneumonia in cattle. It usually affects feedlot cattle later in the feeding period, compared to others that occur shortly after they arrive in the feedlot after weaning.

Treating infections caused by Mycoplasma bovis are difficult because they are inherently resistant to multiple different classes of antibiotics. In addition, they are very adept at evading the immune system, allowing them cause chronic pneumonia. There are also no commercially available effective vaccines to prevent disease. Therefore, preventing or inhibiting this bacterium is essential to reducing infections.
Dr. Murry Jelinski and his team from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine is investigating the use of probiotics as a method to reduce the prevalence or severity of M. bovis infections. There are several research questions that will need investigation before probiotics can become part of a veterinarian and producer toolbox, including whether they can colonize (or grow) in the same location as the M. bovis bacteria, and inhibit its growth. Also, whether there is an easy way to administer the probiotic.

To ensure that the probiotic can easily be provided, Dr. Jelinski’s team screened 64 potential probiotic candidates, and found four that could potentially inhibit M. bovis, with one that had exceptional potential and was therefore used in the next part of the study. Using 60 calves (half as a control), the probiotic was added to the daily ration for 21 days. They found that the feeding method may be a viable method for providing the probiotics to target the nasal cavities. This is significant because M. bovis colonizes the nasal cavities, where it has direct access to the lungs. Inhibiting the nasal growth could lead to a reduction in pneumonia.

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