Impact of No Antibiotics on Piglet Gut Health Post-Weaning

Jenn Hoskins
17th April, 2024

Impact of No Antibiotics on Piglet Gut Health Post-Weaning

Key Findings

  • The study, conducted on commercial pig farms, examined how piglet gut bacteria change post-weaning, especially regarding post-weaning diarrhea (PWD)
  • Piglets receiving antibiotics or zinc oxide (ZnO) showed different gut bacteria compositions compared to untreated piglets
  • Understanding these bacterial changes can help develop new strategies to manage PWD without antibiotics or high doses of ZnO
Weaning is a critical period for piglets, often marked by post-weaning diarrhoea (PWD), which can lead to significant health issues and even mortality. Traditionally, antibiotics and high doses of zinc oxide (ZnO) have been used to prevent PWD but are now being limited due to regulatory changes in the EU, necessitating alternative strategies. A recent study by Teagasc Moorepark[1] provides new insights into how the gut microbiota of piglets evolves during the first two weeks post-weaning and how this knowledge might help in controlling PWD without relying on antibiotics or therapeutic ZnO. The researchers conducted shotgun metagenome sequencing, a method that allows for a comprehensive analysis of all the genetic material in a sample, to examine the taxonomic and functional changes in the faecal microbiota of piglets. They compared three groups of piglets: those receiving antibiotics (Ab), those supplemented with ZnO, and a control group with no medication. The study took place on commercial farms that regularly use antimicrobials during the post-weaning period. The findings showed that the microbiota of piglets is dynamic and undergoes significant changes post-weaning. The study highlighted that the use of antibiotics and ZnO influences the composition and functions of the gut microbiota in different ways. The implications are substantial, as understanding these changes can lead to the development of new strategies to manage PWD effectively. Previous studies have demonstrated the potential of zinc oxide nanoparticles (Nano-ZnO) as a substitute for high doses of traditional ZnO in piglet diets[2]. Nano-ZnO was shown to be effective in reducing diarrhea incidence by improving intestinal microbiota and reducing inflammation, similar to traditional ZnO but at a lower dosage. This finding is particularly relevant as it suggests that even with restrictions on ZnO use, there may be ways to achieve similar health benefits for weaned piglets. The role of the gut microbiome in maintaining overall health and its resilience to disturbances has been well-established[3]. Factors like diet, antibiotics, and host genetics all play a part in shaping the gut ecosystem. The Teagasc Moorepark study adds to this understanding by showing how the post-weaning period specifically affects the microbial community in piglets, which could be critical for developing new interventions. Another earlier study looked into the effects of reducing dietary crude protein and supplementing with ZnO or laminarin on the piglets' faecal scores and large intestinal microbiota[4]. The results indicated that while reducing crude protein did not improve faecal scores, supplementation with ZnO improved the gut microbiota's composition. This ties into the current research, suggesting that ZnO does play a role in shaping the gut environment, which could be leveraged in alternative ways to prevent PWD. Furthermore, the gut microbiota's influence on host appetite and food intake has been well documented, demonstrating that the microbiota can affect the host's eating behavior and metabolism[5]. This relationship underscores the importance of maintaining a healthy gut microbiota for the overall well-being of the piglets, which is particularly pertinent during the stressful post-weaning period. In conclusion, the study by Teagasc Moorepark provides valuable insight into the post-weaning gut microbiota of piglets and how it is affected by the use of antibiotics and ZnO. By understanding these changes, new strategies can be developed to manage PWD, potentially reducing the need for antibiotics and high doses of ZnO. The research builds upon previous findings[2][3][4][5], highlighting the importance of the gut microbiota in piglet health and the potential for targeted dietary interventions to support gut health and prevent disease.

AgricultureBiotechAnimal Science


Main Study

1) Effects of removing in-feed antibiotics and zinc oxide on the taxonomy and functionality of the microbiota in post weaning pigs

Published 16th April, 2024

Related Studies

2) Dietary ZnO nanoparticles alters intestinal microbiota and inflammation response in weaned piglets.

3) Gut microbiome stability and resilience: elucidating the response to perturbations in order to modulate gut health.

4) Effects of reducing dietary crude protein concentration and supplementation with laminarin or zinc oxide on the faecal scores and colonic microbiota in newly weaned pigs.

5) Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis: Modulator of Host Metabolism and Appetite.

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