The price of pork in Thailand has been escalating since 2021 due to the outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF). Though humans are not susceptible, the disease is usually deadly for pigs and therefore has serious socio-economic impacts. The outbreaks significantly reduce the domestic pork supply, resulting in the price hike.

To help Thai swine industry cope with the outbreaks and minimize the use of antibiotics, NANOTEC-NSTDA has developed ionic copper which has a strong antimicrobial effect.

Dr. Warayuth Sajomsang, a principal researcher in NANOTEC Environmental Nanotechnology Research Team, revealed that Thailand and its neighboring countries has been battling the AFS outbreaks, causing significant drop in the hog population. Apart from AFS, the swine industry is threatened by several other infectious diseases, including porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). Millions of baht has been spent on biosecurity measures, antibiotics – which are not recommended as it leads to multidrug-resistant pathogens, and purchasing animals to replenish the stock.

“Taking steps to reduce risk is essential,” said Dr. Warayuth. “These include measures and guidelines provided by the Livestock Department and thorough cleaning and disinfection. Copper ion (Cu2+) or copper salt is known to have an antimicrobial effect on Gram-positive bacteria, Gram-negative bacteria and viruses, thus covering a wide spectrum of swine pathogens. However, it is unstable, thus limiting its antimicrobial activity.”

Dr. Warayuth explained that his research team applied chelating technology to stabilize copper ion and enhance its antimicrobial properties. Natural chelating agent has been used so the product is not harmful to the environment.  In fact, as copper is an essential metal for plant growth and development, runoff water containing chelating copper not only leave no toxic residues to the environment but helps provide essential nutrients to plants.

This technology has been licensed to Smart Vet  Company Limited. The company applied the technology to create animal health products for livestock and aquaculture. Three products have been introduced. BLUERACLE is a feed hygiene product that can be added to poultry and swine feed as well as water used in aquaculture. BLEN IONIC is a product for an oral intake to suppress the growth of diarrhea-causing pathogens in pigs. BLUE TEC is a disinfectant designed for an evaporative cooling system.

“This chelating copper innovation offers a promising solution to disease control and prevention, and thereby reducing the risk of infection outbreak. It is not an antibiotic nor a toxic chemical, and therefore represents a green and safe option for farmers as the product will not have negative effects on human health and the environment. As the use of antibiotics on farmed animals is banned in several countries, chelating copper will enable Thai swine industry to maintain and even expand its export,” concluded Dr. Warayuth.