Insect proteins as a potential source of antimicrobial peptides in livestock production. A review

Authors:A. Józefiak, R. M. Engberg

Publications: J. Anim. Feed Sci. 2017;26(2):87–99, doi: 10.22358/jafs/69998/2017


Together with the extraction of first insect antimicrobial protein (AMP) from the pupae of the giant silk moths Hyalophora cecropia the antibacterial activity of insects was observed for the first time in 1980. Practically, AMPs are small, cationic proteins that exhibit activity against bacteria, fungi as well as certain parasites and viruses. It is known that in addition to their antimicrobial effect, they boost host specific innate immune responses and exert selective immunomodulatory effects involved in angiogenesis and wound healing. More than 1,500 proteins with antimicrobial activity have been identified in different organisms, including plants, fungi, bacteria and animals. Insects are a primary source of AMPs which are considered as not resulting in the development of natural bacterial resistance. In general, they are characterized as heat-stable with no adverse effects on eukaryotic cells. These characteristics contribute to the potential use of these proteins in human and veterinary medicine and in animal nutrition. Depending on their mode of action, insect AMPs may be applied as single peptides, as a complex of different AMPs and as an active fraction of insect proteins in the nutrition of different livestock. The great potential for the use of AMPs in animal production is primarily associated with the growing problem of antibiotics resistance, which has triggered the search for alternatives to antibiotics in livestock production. The review presents the current knowledge of insect AMPs, their chemical structure and mode of action with focus on their potential use in agriculture and livestock production.