Probiotics restore growth, gut health when used to replace antibiotics in recent University of Illinois research
At least some probiotics show the capacity to replace antibiotics in pig diets by promoting growth performance and gut health, according to the latest research from the University of Illinois.
In the study, published in the Journal of Animal Science, researchers fed weanling pigs diets containing either the antibiotic carbadox, one of several doses of probiotics, or a reference diet with neither antibiotics nor probiotics. Pigs fed the probiotic microbe Clostridium butyricum grew at the same rate, and saw some of the same health benefits, as the pigs on the antibiotic, while those that received neither option struggled to keep pace.
While multiple probiotics have shown promise with respect to replacing the growth-promoting benefits of antibiotics, the efficacy of this particular strain surprised Hans Stein, a professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois and one of the co-authors of the paper.
“We have seen real promise from other” probiotics, Stein said, “but this one was better than we had expected, actually.”
Stein said his team selected Clostridium butyricum for further research because it showed promise in poultry trials. The probiotics seemed most effective when pigs were fed 1,250 × 10^8 CFU per kilogram of feed, and could work in a commercial setting, Stein said. He noted, however, that the pigs in the study received meal-based diets; it’s not clear whether the probiotic would survive the pelleting process.
“I will not hesitate in recommending use of this probiotic instead of antibiotics at this point,” Stein said. “Of course, there is always more we can learn and more work that will be done, but at this point we are pretty confident that this will work well.”
Generally speaking, probiotics have a similar effect on gut health as antibiotics — both help to manage intestinal microbes. Antibiotics kill disease-causing bacteria, preventing illness, while probiotics promote the health of beneficial microbes, which then crowd out unwanted bacteria.
“The end result is increased intestinal health in both products, just different mechanisms,” Stein said.
Other probiotics may also be effective, Stein said, although there is no guarantee that all probiotoics will perform as the strain tested in this trial.
“We have seen surprisingly positive responses to the use of some probiotics,” Stein said. “It doesn’t mean all probiotics work, but there are a number of probiotics on the market that can work, and this is certainly one of them.”