WASHINGTON – Natural compounds can significantly reduce or eliminate disease-causing pathogens, according to research from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Researchers at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Food and Feed Safety Research Unit in College Station, Texas, used chlorate (sodium or salt) and nitro compounds to significantly reduce or eliminate intestinal bacterial pathogens in piglets and calves. The compounds have been proven effective against Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7, USDA said.

In earlier research, Robin Anderson, a microbiologist, and his colleagues mixed the chlorate-based compound into water or feed and gave it to cattle. The compound was highly effective against E. coli, and was later licensed to a private company. Chlorate also reduced Salmonella in broiler chickens and turkeys, according to USDA.

Chlorate alone was effective against Salmonella and E. coli, but when combined with the nitro compound, the killing activity increased 10-to 100-fold, USDA said. Anderson and his team concluded that nitro and chlorate compounds used in combination could be an alternative to certain antibiotics commonly used to treat diarrheal infections in young animals, according to USDA.