[ASC-media] Beneficial bacteria help keep pigs healthy

joanne.finlay at dpi.nsw.gov.au joanne.finlay at dpi.nsw.gov.au
Mon Oct 30 02:52:03 CET 2006

NSW Department of Primary Industries
30 October 2006


An innovative alternative to using antibiotics in piggeries is being 
trialled by scientists from the Elizabeth Macarthur Agriculture Institute 
near Sydney.

Probiotics, used in humans to promote gut health, are being fed to 
intensively reared pigs to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in 
the intestine, and prime the immune system.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) immunologist, Dr James Chin 
says that the use of probiotics in piggeries could help keep pigs healthy 
and reduce the reliance of the industry on in-feed antibiotic growth 

In humans, the most commonly used probiotics belong to the lactic acid 
bacteria family and include acidophilus and bifidobacteria, frequently 
found as supplements in live-culture yogurts.

Dr Chin said the time immediately after birth, and during weaning are two 
of the most critical stages in a pigs' life.

"A new born piglet, like a human baby, has almost no immunity, and its 
gastro-intestinal tract is like a vacuum-cleaner, capable of sucking in 
and being colonized by micro-organisms from their food and the 

"At weaning, the pigs' diet changes and they can no longer depend upon the 
mothers' milk for immunity. 

"At this time, they become vulnerable to infection with E. coli, a 
bacterium that causes colibacillosis or diarrhoea, retarding growth and 
making the pig even more susceptible to other diseases such as 

Dr Chin said research trials to be undertaken at piggeries in NSW would 
seek to investigate the genetic signatures of good and bad bacteria, 
isolated from different parts of the pigs' intestines. 

"This would provide a quick way of determining whether a piglet is healthy 
or not and whether the provision of probiotics would improve gut health."

The use of probiotics to restore a better balance of beneficial bacteria 
is important because these bacteria can produce substances that help fight 
invading pathogenic bacteria.

Dr Chin said a new designer lactic acid bacteria probiotic developed in 
collaboration with a commercial partner, International Animal Health, has 
already been tested on a herd of 53 animals, and has significantly 
improved weaner weight.

He said it would be valuable to find out whether a combination of 
probiotics used at birth and after weaning could provide "a complete 
process" for managing pig health, and reduce over-reliance on antibiotics.

A new three year research project is being funded with the help of the 
Pork Cooperative Research Centre and International Animal Health.    
Contact: Dr James Chin, Menangle, on 61 2 4640 6359 or james.chin at dpi.nsw.gov.au.

Joanne Finlay
Science Communication Specialist
PH: 63913171
Mobile: 0428 491813
Fax: 6391 3199

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