Using probiotics to cut antibiotic usage without damaging piglet health or performance



Today's swine industry is changing faster than ever in its constant drive for greater global competitiveness. Farms have become bigger, animal density has increased and sanitary risks continue to rise.


Although herd size and productivity are important to the industry's competitiveness, they do not guarantee success for farmers, with consumers increasingly demanding improvements in product quality, traceability, food safety, animal welfare and sustainability.


Risk-based biosecurity and antibiotic resistance


The recent spread of African Swine Fever has highlighted the need to re-evaluate biosecurity.


Using specific tools, such as risk-based biosecurity scoring, enables us to convert questions concerning biosecurity practices into a score which can then be used to evaluate the overall biosecurity status of an individual farm. Scoring results also inform farmers and veterinarians on possible areas of future biosecurity improvement, providing a benchmark against which to compare individual farms and herds.


Biosecurity and herd management data are particularly important parameters for use in identifying risk factors in relation to high levels of antimicrobial usage. According to several studies, antimicrobial usage on farms is linked to herd status and character, as affected by different approaches to biosecurity. Improving biosecurity, therefore, is an important step in preventing the entry and spread of pathogens in herds; potentially reducing the need for antibiotics.


A clear link between usage levels and the subsequent development of antimicrobial resistance has already been demonstrated by several authors. For a comprehensive understanding of antibiotic usage and resistance, however, it's necessary to carry out a holistic and multidisciplinary examination of current farm activities. Such an approach is necessary to explore the risk factors which are most associated with high antibiotic usage. Subsequent analysis should include biosecurity measurement, management, labour training, feed meal and raw material quality control, diet formulation and the use of alternatives to antibiotics.


Probiotics and their contribution to the rational use of antibiotics


The development of antimicrobial resistance by the pathogenic bacteria associated with antibiotic treatments has become an important public health concern and the main driver for the gradual substitution and restriction of antibiotics as livestock growth promoters. In seeking to use antibiotics in a much more rational way, the industry has mainly turned to probiotics and prebiotics to promote the growth of a healthier microbiota, instead of the previous approach of eliminating microbiota in order to achieve better animal health and wellbeing.

The World Health Organization defines probiotics as a live micro-organism including yeast, bacteria or fungi, which, when ingested in adequate amounts, interacts with microbiota and confers a health benefit on its host. It is well documented that intestinal microbiota is of fundamental importance for the health of the host, helping to maintain the homeostasis by competing with transient enteropathogens and by producing immunomodulatory metabolites. Changes in the intestinal microbiota, after all, result in functional, immunological, and nutritional consequences for the host.


Probiotic live yeasts are unicellular Eukaryote organisms, with the unique characteristic of being resistant to antibiotics, which allows nutritionists and veterinarians to use them alongside an existing antibiotic program.


It's reported that live yeast probiotics can bind directly to pathogens, limiting the binding of pathogens to intestinal cells and facilitating their removal from the host. By working with a different mode of action, therefore, live Yeast in combination with an antibiotic treatment could potentially improve the effectiveness of antibiotics on high-challenge farms.


In this context, a farm trial was recently carried out in France with 40 post-weaning piglets, all of which faced a severe E. coli challenge.


The piglets were divided into two groups. The first group, established as a control, was treated with 120 ppm of Colistin during the first post-weaning diet period (15 days). The second group was fed a combination of 120 ppm of Colistin plus 1kg/ton of Probiotic live yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae Sc 47 during the first period (15 days), followed by 0.8 kg/ton of Probiotic live yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae Sc 47 on its own, during the second period (days 16-34).


Trial results showed that combining Colistin and Probiotic live yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae Sc 47 had a positive impact in reducing diarrhea (from 6.7% to 1.9%), while also reducing the incidence of antibiotic application from 5% to zero (figure 1). As a consequence, post-weaning daily weight gain improved by 12g/day (figure 2).




The use of Probiotic live yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae Sc 47 is effective is reducing a post- weaning diarrhea challenge. When used in combination with an antibiotic program, it can also help to optimize antibiotic efficiency and improve animal performance.

       Private research institute in France                                                Private research institute in France.



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Article made possible through the contribution of Phileo