Probiotics are being widely used in farm animal husbandry to improve breeding performance in stressful conditions. Although probiotics have been used primarily for domestic animals, they are being used successfully in human health foods. More recently, probiotics are being used in wildlife.
The mechanisms of action of probiotics include competition with pathogens by modifying the intestinal environment through reducing pH, as a result of fermentation products, interacting and modulating local and systemic inflammatory and immune response, among others. There are not many reports of probiotics being used in wild animals, especially in dolphins. Improving the immune response of the individual is significant when it comes to dolphins because we need to keep them healthy since our main goal is to reproduce them to maintain a sustainable population.
In this study, 21 pregnant females of Tursiops truncatus were supplemented with Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, during pregnancy and lactation to see if these micro-organisms have an impact on calf immunity and development. In domestic livestock supplementation of pregnant females appears to be a safe and effective method of enhancing the immunoprotective potential of milk and of preventing diseases, resulting in a higher growth rate of calves.
The calves of supplemented mothers showed a higher growth rate and fewer occurrences of diseases compared to calves of females that did not receive supplementation, suggesting probiotics have a significant effect on calf development and influence immune response, both specifically by stimulating antibody production and non-specifically by enhancing phagocytic activity of leucocytes. These are not universal properties among lactobacillus strains, and not all lactobacilli have shown the same beneficial effects. The benefits of supplementation with Lactobacillus GG resulted in bigger and healthier dolphins. This is the base of preventive medicine from which we have to start so the population remains stable and successfully reproductive.