Having acquired his M.Sc. and his Ph.D. in Poultry Science at Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries Sciences University (India), Dr. Manafi has been engaged with many research projects funded by governmental organizations and industry and has a collaboration background with scientists from the USA, Australia, India, and European Union since 2009. He has more than 16 years of research experience in Monogastric Animal Production and Physiology, both in academia and industry. His main research interest is feed evaluation, nutrient requirements for different animal species, application of herbal/medicinal plant origin extracts as alternatives to chemical feed additives in poultry diets, digestive physiology and poultry nutrition, production, and management.
Prof. Manafi has been especially focused on mycotoxins in poultry feed, nutritional application of biotechnological feed additives (microbial enzymes, prebiotics, probiotics, phytobiotics, etc.) on poultry growth and health, and nutritional value of Agro-Industrial by-products as alternative feed resources. He is currently serving as an Associate Professor in the Department of Animal Science at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Malayer University, Iran.
Your career has been focused on researching monogastric animal production and physiology with a special interest in poultry. What lead you to this particular line of research?
Before I joined the university, I was very interested in chicken behavior and used to sit and watch them while visiting a friend’s poultry commercial farm.
This enticed me to explore the field of Animal and Poultry Science at the university and led me to continue my postgraduate studies in Poultry Science through competitive scholarships and funds from different organizations.
Since my Master thesis, I have worked in the field of Mycotoxins and had the chance to join many ongoing projects. I continued my research on this topic for my Ph.D. thesis, which has led to a long-time mycotoxin trial in broiler breeders and allowed us to evaluate the carry-over effects on the progeny chicks. It was a massive study and I have published many highly cited publications about it.
Throughout the years, you have participated in and conducted many experimental projects. Which are the main key points that should be taken into account when tackling the experimental design of a research project in poultry production, for example, to evaluate the effects of a feed additive or mycotoxin binder?
Your question is about a vital phase of any study protocol.
The key points while planning a trial may differ from one place to another depending on aspects such as environmental fluctuations or the level of feed ingredient contamination. Besides, the commercial binder availability at a reasonable price within the region is also very important.
Apart from these elements, when evaluating a binder, the investigator needs to formulate the precise level of the toxin(s) that is closest to the actual situation on a farm.
The number of animals to be used alongside the appropriate statistical tools applied are also considered important.
Another significant hint while conducting a research trial is to monitor and control the whole practical aspects of the trial, right from toxin preparation and administration to the daily care of the tested animals.
EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN KEY POINTS
You have carried out many studies evaluating the efficacy of different plant extracts. Have any of them proven to have beneficial effects regarding mycotoxin exposure, for example, mitigating their effects or preventing their absorption?
As you mentioned, I have conducted plenty of mycotoxin research with an emphasis on finding a suitable mycotoxin remover or, at least, a deactivator.
There are many commercial binders across the globe, which may be expensive due to transport and legal custom charges.
I am working to set up and introduce a new mycotoxin binder based on locally available materials and medicinal plants, at a relatively cheap price, which could be used by farmers hassle-free.
Another promising line of research is the use of probiotics. Have you found evidence of their benefits regarding the mitigation of the negative effects of mycotoxins?
Probiotics are used in a few different ways in poultry.
One of the ways we sometimes evaluate within our research plans is their use as a source of beneficial bacteria to reduce the negative impact of mycotoxins on the gastrointestinal tract.
One of your research projects focused on the in vitro effect of aloe vera leaf extract on the growth of Aspergillus flavus, its extracellular protein profile, and the production of aflatoxin B1. Can these findings be extrapolated to farm scenarios?
The overall goal of the project was to evaluate the applicability of these findings at the farm level.
Aloe Vera is known to have several properties, such as virucidal, bactericidal, and fungicidal effects could be useful against mycotoxin synthesis, especially in gel form.
We have tested this plant in a few in vivo and in vitro trials and have collected favorable results in combating mycotoxins, specially Aflatoxin B1.
Looking back on your research with mycotoxins, which have been the most notable conclusions you have come to in terms of poultry production parameters and health?
The benefit of the farmer is the major point to consider as poultry production and health is the final goal that every farmer seeks.
By providing an appropriate mycotoxin binder to the poultry industry, not only the farming communities will get financially benefited, but also, the entire society will remain safe from possible cancer issues which may be carried over from poultry products contaminated with mycotoxins.
In your opinion, which are the main steps to minimize the exposure of our livestock to mycotoxins?
For the countries that import raw feed ingredients, such as maize and soybean, I strongly suggest monitoring and analyzing the feedlot before buying.
Once purchased, there should be an overall control and observation during transportation and storage.
For the countries that produce their raw feed ingredients, it is crucial to control the mold infection during the production and harvest phases at the farm.
Additionally, it is important to monitor the storage conditions and supply pathways as it is in these phases where these secondary metabolites are mainly produced.
Once exposure to mycotoxins has occurred, what recommendations can you give us to minimize their toxic effects?
I strongly emphasize the importance of avoiding mycotoxin production through the strategies explained previously.
However, once it has already occurred, the only viable and practical solution is using the appropriate mycotoxin binder, which should be scientifically validated, locally available and have a strong technical support from the supplier.
Keeping in mind the effects of climate change on the occurrence of mycotoxins, where do you think are major flaws are bound to appear along the production chain and how do you think we can overcome them?
There is a simple word to reply to this question “MANAGEMENT”.
This simple word has a World of meaning behind it, as it is of utmost importance to focus on management during at each stage – i.e. production, harvest, transport, storage, and supply.
Apart from developing quality assurance and quality control management measures, we need to have experienced managers who are qualified to manage and reduce the incidence of mycotoxins.