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Insects: A Sustainable Novel Antimicrobial and Protein Source for Livestock


   School of Biological Sciences

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  Dr K Theodoridou, Dr Elizabeth Ball  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Food security is a global challenge and there is an urgent need to increase the protein supply from sustainable sources. Currently more than 80% of the protein requirements for livestock rearing in the EU is imported from non-EU countries. At the same time climate-induced shifts will increase the cost of animal protein and feed due to an increased demand for land and water while the growing problem of antibiotic resistance has triggered the search for alternatives. Insects may act as an antimicrobial agent, with the potential to control various foodborne pathogens and insect protein is the source of potent bioactive peptides capable of different biological functions.

Protein, after digestion in the animal gut, can generate peptides with antimicrobial properties that can potentially tackle bacterial pathogen infection. In addition, chitin, a polysaccharide in the exoskeleton of insects, has shown potential as an antimicrobial/prebiotic, boosting immune system functioning making it a promising alternative to antibiotics. This year the EU approved insect protein for pigs and broilers and recently at the COP26 conference insects were mentioned as a sustainable way for livestock. This project will shed some light on a novel approach to reduce application of traditional medicines/antibiotics and use a novel protein source in livestock diets.

The aim of this project is to explore the potential of insects as an alternative feed source and a prebiotic and antimicrobial agent to control various foodborne pathogens for monogastric animals. The specific objectives are: 1) Explore the nutritive value of different insect species (i.e. antioxidant activity, amino acids, fatty acids, minerals, nutrient molecular structure) and the effect of various substrates (i.e. seaweed, food by-products) to enhance circular economy. 2) Use in vitro monogastric models to investigate the effect of insects on stomach fermentation, digestibility and their potential to reduce ammonia and methane production. 3) Assess in vitro the effect of insects’ bioactive compounds on foodborne pathogens (E. coli O157, Salmonella agona, and Streptococcus suis) that often colonize weaning piglets. 4) Compare the prebiotic potential of insects derived products vs soya (conventional feed) in simulated in vitro fermentation system. 5) Determine the feeding efficiency and animal performance (i.e. daily growth, feed intake, feed conversion ratio and digestibility) of pigs and broilers. The most promising insect species will be used for the animal trials as a novel prebiotic and protein source to supplement the diet. 6) Determine the effect of insect supplementation on meat quality parameters.

Start Date: 1 October 2022

Duration: 3 years

How to apply: Applications must be submitted via: https://dap.qub.ac.uk/portal/user/u_login.php

Skills/experience required: This project would be suitable for students who have an honours degree in a related science (e.g. animal science, veterinary, food science, biology), and a keen interest in animal nutrition/physiology, laboratory analyses. Good skills in reviewing literature, attention to detail, time-management, organisation, teamwork and independent learning, are also required.

Note: This project is in competition for DfE funding with a number of other projects. A selection process will determine the strongest candidates across the range of projects, who may then be offered funding for their chosen project.


Funding Notes

Candidates must hold a UK 2.1 Bachelor's degree or qualifications considered to be equivalent by the University.
Candidates must also be normally resident in the UK for the three year period prior to 1 October 2022. For non-EU nationals, the main purpose of residence must not have been to receive full-time education. Non-UK or Irish nationals must also have pre-settled or settled status (EU nationals) or settled status (non-EU nationals).
Full eligibility criteria: https://www.economy-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/economy/Postgraduate-studentships-terms-and-conditions.pdf
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