Purified Beta Glucan has a strong modulating effect on the immune system, making the animal more resistant to health problems. The use of purified Beta glucan in animal feed reduces mortality and improves the response after vaccination.
If you type the word “Beta Glucans” in Google, in 1 second you will find more than 1.3 million articles that talk about the beneficial effects of the use of these dietary fibers in human and animal nutrition. In recent decades, beta-glucans have received special attention in human nutrition, mainly for their ability to activate host defense mechanisms and for their anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, and hypocholesterolemic effects. Due to the growing interest in functional foods and new laws prohibiting the use of antibiotic growth promoters, beta-glucans have also become a topic of great relevance for animal nutrition. This interest is due to the fact that they regulate immune function and are also responsible for protecting the animal organism from infections and harmful substances.
What are beta-glucans?
They are indigestible fibers found in the cell walls of a wide variety of microorganisms, such as multicellular fungi, yeasts, bacteria, and grains. Based on their molecular structure, they are considered a biological response modifier due to their immunomodulatory potential. As they are recognized by specific cell receptors, they have the ability to enhance the host’s immune response. Their continuous intake reduces the risk of disease in animals. Beta-glucans from Saccharomyces cerevisiae are the most studied. This yeast is responsible for fermentation processes in the production of fuel alcohol, bread, and alcoholic beverages.
Not all beta-glucans are the same
The mechanism of immunomodulation mediated by beta-glucan depends on its interaction with immune cells located in the intestine, which recognize it and induce local and systemic regulatory responses. From this point, the structure of beta-glucan has a great influence on the process of immunity, including its molecular structure and purity. This is why not all beta-glucans are the same.
Unpurified β-glucan is a component of the cell wall of yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and is found in products used in animal nutrition, such as dried, hydrolyzed and autolyzed yeast.
Its concentration is on average 25% and it is present in the form of glucomannoproteins.
The purified beta-glucan , with a concentration of over 70%, is obtained through a biotechnological process of purification of the yeast cell wall. Through this process, this component is presented in the purest form, free of the bonds with the mannoproteins of the cell wall and its physiological response is much more effective. Figure 1 schematically represents the differences in these structures.
Programmed immune protection
With this molecular characteristic, the purified β-glucans are fully engulfed by macrophages, initiating the innate immune process. Subsequently, they are released into the lymphatic and circulatory systems as smaller particles that interact in the Th1 and Th2 cytokine production pathways. The major action occurs in the Th2 pathway, with an increased release of anti-inflammatory cytokines, such as IL-10, which tends to neutralize the inflammatory cytokines resulting from the activation of the TH1 system (immunomodulation). Purified β-glucan also has the property of acting on B cells, which produce antibodies, thus optimizing the response after vaccination. Another important action of purified beta-glucans is their ability to train or program the innate immune system of animals. This function, called programmed immune protection (PIP), promotes a faster and more accurate immune response to challenges faced in the event of reinfection.
Providing the right balance
Each beta-glucan triggers a different level of immunomodulation, but what differentiates them is the intensity and balance of the reaction. When purified, the reaction is more potent compared to the unpurified molecule. Therefore, the use of purified beta glucan in the feed of any animal species provides a balance of the immune system, improves natural defenses, reduces mortality, and improves post-vaccination response. These actions have a positive impact on animal efficiency and profitability.