Antibiotic alternatives: Chinese team identifies probiotic to benefit the intestinal health of weaned piglets

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Photo Credit: GettyImages/Monty Rakusen
Photo Credit: GettyImages/Monty Rakusen

Related tags piglet

The supplementation of Bacillus coagulans in feed had positive effects on the growth performance and intestinal bacteria of weaned piglets, finds new research.

A Chinese study​ involving researchers from COFCO Feed Co Ltd and from New Hope Liuhe Group evaluated the feasibility of Bacillus coagulans​ as an alternative to antibiotics.

The results showed that the addition of that probiotic to the diet contributed to the improvement of growth performance and the diarrhea index in weaned piglets and could improve their intestinal microbial diversity, which is beneficial to safeguard their intestinal health, reported the authors.

Diarrhea index

The diarrhea index is often used to evaluate feed conversion and the status of intestinal health for pigs. Diarrhea in weaned piglets and its functional damage to the gastrointestinal tract are major issues to be solved in piglet production, they added.

Stress syndrome in weaned piglets is a key concern in feeding management and has also become a core issue in pig nutrition, noted the researchers. “This leads to a decrease in feed intake, growth retardation and even the generation of stubborn pigs (Moeser et al., 2017).”

Novel functional additives with anti-diarrhea activities and ones that maintain intestinal immunity and bacteria balance in piglets are required, they said, to ensure the sustainable development of animal husbandry, the healthy growth of weaned piglets, and to protect the environment and the safety of food.

Bacillus coagulans​, a probiotic strain with significant research behind it (Quach et al., 2021), has gained some attention and recognition in the field of piglet feed replacement.

“It has the common characteristics of lactic acid bacteria and bacillus. Thus, Bacillus coagulans can produce acid and form budding spores and has significant effects on regulating the balance of intestinal bacteria, promoting intestinal health, digestion, and absorption, enhancing immunity, and improving production performance (Sanders et al., 2013, Jurenka, 2012).”

The hypothesis of their study, continued the researchers, was that Bacillus coagulans​ can be used to establish a replacement program for weaned piglets.

“Promoting intestinal health and maintaining intestinal homeostasis can ensure the healthy intestinal function of weaned piglets. Therefore, this trial was used to investigate the effect of feed supplementation with Bacillus coagulans on the growth performance, diarrhea index and intestinal microbiota of weaned piglets and to assess its feasibility as an alternative to antibiotics.”

The study

Ninety healthy weaned piglets with similar BWs were selected and randomized into three treatment groups. Pigs in the negative control (NC) group were fed a basal diet, pigs in the positive control (PC) group were fed the basal diet plus antibiotics, and pigs in the test group (BC) were fed the basal diet plus Bacillus coagulans​ at 600 g/t; the trial lasted for 28 days.

“The results showed that the ratios of feed to gain (F:G) of both the BC and PC groups from 1 to 21 days were significantly lower, and the average daily weight gain (ADG) of the BC group from 22 to 28 days was significantly higher than that of the NC group in terms of growth performance.

“The diarrhea index was lowest in the PC group, followed by the BC group, and highest in the NC group. The BC group had a lower diarrhea index at the later stage. We performed 16S rRNA sequencing to measure the intestinal bacteria and found that the BC group had a higher intestinal bacteria diversity than the NC and PC groups.”

The authors saw that Bacillus coagulans​ changed the microbial composition in the feces of weaned piglets, which they said had positive effects on growth performance and the diarrhea index.

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