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Attapulgite with essential oils of oregano for natural protection of the intestinal epithelium of productive animals from pathogens

Attapulgite with essential oils of oregano for natural protection of the intestinal epithelium of productive animals from pathogens

"Experimental data are presented showing that attapulgite and oregano essential oils can offer an effective natural solution (instead of the use of antibiotics) for improving the pigs’ and poultry’s intestinal health and performance."

With the prohibition in the European Union of antibiotics as growth promoters (AGP) in animal feed, on January 1st, 2006 (Regulation. 1831/2003), alternative natural solutions were developed by using probiotics, phytobiotics, acidifiers, special clays, etc. to improve the intestinal health and performance of pigs and poultry (1). While in some countries, including the United States, where the use of AGP is still permitted, the increasing risk of pathogens that are resistant to antibiotics and the consumer’s concerns about antibiotic residues in meat has led to apply the above mentioned alternatives.

 Antimicrobial action of phytobiotics

 The antimicrobial action of the essential oils of oregano (the most biologically active in comparison to other plant extracts) against a broad range of Gram-positive and Gram-negative microorganisms, including Listeria strains, Pseudomonas, Proteus, Salmonella, E.Coli and Clostridium are described extensively in international literature (2-10). This activity of oregano oil is due to its phenolic ingredients and specifically to carvacrol and thymol (11). The functional changes in the potential and the permeability of the bacterial cell membrane are associated to the presence of oregano oil (12).


Several experiments have also proved the antioxidant activity of the essential oil of oregano (13-17), while oregano has also anti-fungal action inhibiting the production of aflatoxin by preventing the growth of Aspergillus, even in very low concentrations (18-20).

 Antidiarrheal action and binding of enterotoxins with attapulgite

The antidiarrheal action of attapulgite (a natural magnesium aluminosilicate mineral with unique physicochemical properties), is due to its very large porous inner surface (200-300 m2 / g) and its water absorption capacity (130-200%).

Geohellas is applying ‘’dynamic processing techniques’’ (extrusion, thermal activation at temperatures >250oC and jet milling under high air pressure), improving the surface characteristics of attapulgite, which are crucial to the development of strong bonding with bacterial enterotoxins of E. Coli and Cl. perfringens and mycotoxins produced by fungi due to poor storage conditions of feed (Table 2).


For more information about toxin binding in pigs, please click here

For more information about toxin binding in other species, please click in below 

Intestinal protection for piglets

 A series of E. Coli bacteria serotype 0157: H7 was added at various concentrations: 10, 102, 104, and 106 to piglet intestinal cells (IPEC-J2), in the presence and absence of several types of Greek attapulgite (corresponding to an equivalent attapulgite dosage of 3kg /MT of feed) (Table 3).

The attapulgite appears to have a protective action against toxinogenic bacteria in comparison to control group, increasing by 21% the number of surviving piglet intestinal cells in the presence of E.Coli at the lowest concentrations 10/ml and by +13% at the highest one (106/ml). In similar way in the presence of Cl. perfringens the surviving cells have been increased by 13% at low concentrations (10 / ml) and 9% at the highest one (106 / ml) (21).


Higher productivity resulting from improved health status

The results in French pig farms - Brittany (22), after the use of attapulgite based products in feed, indicate a higher level of health status and an improved digestive function of the animals leading to a reduced mortality in weaning (from 1 to 0.7%) and of the total weaning – fattening mortality (from 4.8 to 3.5%), as a consequence of the protection of the intestinal epithelium from the colonization by E.Coli.


Respectively, the cost of using antibiotics at the weaning and the beginning of fattening has been decreased from 148 to 125 € / sow / year, because of the use of attapulgite products while the overall health of the intestinal microflora which is associated with the performance of the animals, as it is shown by the improved feed conversion ratios (FCR) from 2.65 to 2.57 and the average daily weight gain (DWG) from 667 to 690 g, lead also to higher profit of the farm.

On the same way, the results from Greek pig farms, show the zoo-technical properties of attapulgite products by increasing slaugh-ter weight in 150 days of age versus control depending on the pig farm health status, from +4 up to + 12,4 Kg (23).

Similar zootechnical effects were observed in important integrated productive broiler units (24). The placements of week 42/2013 representing a number of 557.654 broilers (21 buildings) using an attapulgite/probiotic blend, were compared to placements of week 41/2013 (685,303 birds) and 43/2013 (500,586 birds) (without attapulgite/probiotic blend in feed). The mortality and the final weight of the birds were the critical parameters playing an import-ant role in the improvement of EPEF index (European Production Efficiency Factor), that reaches for attapulgite/probiotic blend the 306 units, compared to 278 (placements week 41) and 293 units (placements week 43) both without attapulgite/probiotic blend.

Synergies of Greek attapulgite with essential oils of oregano

Special processes have been developed by Geoellas for the absorption/stabilization of essential oils of oregano into granular attapulgite, that is protecting them over the passage through the digestive system, process that is followed by a ‘’dynamic dispersion’’ of the granular mixture into a very fine grained attapulgite probiotic matrix. The antibacterial activity of essential oils of oregano (the most biologically active in comparison to other phytobiotics), against a broad spectrum of microorganisms, is en-hancing the action of the attapulgite based product even at high levels of contamination (Listeria, Proteus, Pseudomonas, Staph. aureus, Salmonella spp., E. Coli, Brachyspira etc) during pig’s fattening phase, leading to improvements in the feed conversion ratio (FCR) and final body weight. Special experiments performed by the Technological Educational Institute (TEI) of Epirus in a pig farm of Philippiada-GR (Table 4) at the fattening stage, showed statistically significant differences (+4.7 kg) in final body weight of the pigs at 167 days of age with the use of attapulgite with probi-otics & essential oils, (25).


In another recent experiment in a pig farm in Larissa-GR (Table 5), the use of attapulgite with essential oils of oregano (Ultrafed Premium), led to differences in feed conversion ratio (FCR) - 0,19 units: i.e. from 2.60 to 2.41 and final body weights + 4 kg, i.e. from 96.6 to 100.6 kg in 150 days of age (photo 1). These values are contributing in a great extend to the economic benefit of the farm.

 The use of attapulgite/probiotic/essential oil synergetic blends, in pig farms that are presenting dysentery symptoms from Brachyspira (sensitive to oregano extract), is showing to stabilize in short period of time the health status of the pigs and offers very satisfactory results in terms of performance.

Table 5. Use of attapulgite with oregano oil in fattening phase in a pig farm οf Larissa-GR


Attapulgite Commercial Products

SANFED® ULTRA: Toxin binder based on mechanically & thermally activated Attapulgite

ULTRAFED®: Intestinal protection based on Attapulgite / Probiotic synergetic blend

ULTRAFED® PREMIUM: Intestinal protection with antibacterial function based on Attapulgite/ Probiotic/ Essential oil synergetic blend


For more information about Sanfed Ultra® or Ultrafed Premium series® visit us on our booth H103/1826 during VIV'Asia or on 

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