Steve Elliott of Alltech spoke to the beef session at Global 500 on Disease prevention: Proven technologies for beef profitability. Elliott described pathogen agglutination, the mechanism by which pathogenic bacteria adhere to surface carbohydrates on the intestinal wall. The bacteria use fimbriae, thin hair like projections, to hang onto carbohydrates where they can establish a colony rather quickly.
There are different types of fimbriae and they adhere to different compounds. Pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli have Type-1 fimbriae, which bind well with mannose (a poorly digested sugar). It is possible to trick a bacteria with Type-1 fimbriae by using a decoy carbohydrate molecule in the feed. Once the fimbriae has attached to the decoy molecule it will not let go and with no way to adhere to the cell wall it travels harmlessly out of the gut. There are many types of supplements that can help farmers overcome these problems naturally.