Animal Nutrition 1

Research title: Plant biotechnologies applied to animal nutrition

Tutors: Dott. Luciana ROSSI – Prof. Antonella BALDI


Contact details

Luciana ROSSI

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Via Celoria 10, 20134 Milano

Phone number: 02-50317891


Antonella BALDI

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Via Trentacoste 2, 20133 Milano

Phone number: 02-50315736


State of the art

The growing awareness of farmers, consumers and the general public towards the protection of animal welfare, environment and land imposes a new role to agricultural activities, not only in terms of productivity, but also to guarantee the health of the products and the protection of land and agroecosystem. Animal nutrition and feeding is an essential part to strength intestinal health, reducing antibiotic use (that need to be used more prudently in animal agriculture) and controlling the environmental impact of intensive livestock.  Plants, beside being a source of many essential nutrients, can be also considered as a versatile source of bioactive compounds. Plants have been used as a source of natural products throughout history, dating back thousands of years. Numerous studies have demonstrated that phytogenic compounds have a variety of function, including antimicrobial, antioxidative and anti-inflammation effects and improvement in the palatability of feed. Plant-based products have diverse industrial applications that continue to expand with the development of new bioprocess and plant molecular biology technologies. In particular, advance in biotechnology are enabling plants to be exploited as bioreactors for the production of valuable proteins such as vaccine antigens. Plant-based oral vaccines offer a novel approach to vaccination strategies, especially when local intestinal immune response is crucial for the prevention of infections. The plant were also investigated in the process of phytoremediation a natural processes that exploits the ability of plants to uptake pollutants from the environment and can be considered as a cost-effective strategy to remove exceeding heavy metal content from the manure.


Aims of the project 

In pig industry novel strategies, alternative to antibiotics (according to EU Regulation no. 1831/2003), are required to control enteric infections, in particular caused by verocytotoxic Escherichia coli (VTEC).  VTEC serotypes, most frequently O138, O139, O141, cause enterotoxaemia that occurs in pigs during the weaning period and is responsible of important economic losses. In an antibiotic-free production system, strategies for optimal and sustainable production are likely to be multi-factorial. The general aim of this project is to develop and evaluated innovative plant-based approaches to control enteric infectious disease in intensive livestock, to improve health status and to reduce the environmental pollution. Firstly the attention will be focalized on plant-based oral vaccines against O138 E. coli strain, that offer an innovative approach to vaccination strategies, especially when local intestinal immune response is crucial for the prevention of infections.  In this contest, the specific aim will be to improve the seed-expression level of antigens in tobacco plants previously developed as edible vaccines against VTEC strains. Secondly the protective effect of innovative phytogenic feed additives will be evaluated by a challenge in vivo experiment on weaned piglets at the Centro Zootecnico Didattico Sperimentale in Lodi. Growth performance and principal metabolic parameter will be investigated. The final aim of this study was to evaluate the ability of plants to bioaccumulate trace elements, often  supplemented in feed to control E.coli infection, as a cost-effective plant-based approach of remediation, under controlled experimental conditions. 




Recent publications of the tutor in the field

1) L. Rossi*, S. Vagni, C. Polidori, G.L. Alborali, A. Baldi, V. Dell’Orto. (2012). Experimental induction of Escherichia coli diarrhoea in weaned piglet. Open Journal of Veterinary Medicine, 2: 1-8; ISSN Print: 2165-3356, ISSN Online

2) L. Rossi*, A. Di Giancamillo, S. Reggi, C.Domeneghini, A. Baldi, V. Sala, V. Dell’Orto, A. Coddens, E. Cox, C.Fogher. (2013) “Expression of porcine verocytotoxic Escherichia coli antigens in tobacco seeds andevaluation of gut immunity after oral administration in mouse model” Journal of Veterinary Science, Sep; 14(3):263-270.

3) L. Rossi*, L. Pinotti, A. Agazzi, V. Dell’Orto, A. Baldi. Plant bioreactors for the antigenic hookassociated flgK protein expression. Italian Journal of animal science . Italian Journal of Animal Science. (2014) 13 (1): 23-29.

4) L. Rossi*, V. Dell’Orto, S. Vagni, V. Sala, S. Reggi, A. Baldi. Protective effect of oral administration of transgenic tobacco seeds against verocytotoxic Escherichia coli strain in piglets. Veterinary Research Communication. Veterinary Research Communications. 2014 38 (1): 39-49.

5) L. Rossi, Fusi E., M. Boglioni, C. Giromini, R. Rebucci, A. Baldi. Effect of Zinc Oxide and Zinc Chloride on Human and Swine Intestinal Epithelial Cell Lines. Int. J. of Health, Animal science and Food safety 2 (2014): 1-7.