Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Diversity and stability as microbial community parameters of a healthy gut

At the time of weaning, major quantitative and qualitative changes occur in the composition of the intestinal microbiota of piglets, influenced by diet, environmental factors, and the host itself. Within a short period of time, the intestinal microbiota must develop from being essentially sterile, to a microbial community of varying complexity. The microflora remains fairly stable in terms of species after this initial colonisation, and for as long as the piglets receive sow milk.

However, the sudden introduction of solid food causes major qualitative and quantitative alterations in the microflora which must then change from being a comparatively simple (and potentially unstable) community into a complex and stable one. For example, strict anaerobes such as Bacteroides become established in the large intestine, and this corresponds with a decline in the number of facultative anaerobe organisms.

Also, invasion by pathogens is very much dependent on the condition of the animal, including the composition and activity of the GI tract microbiota. The results obtained indicate that the addition of non-digestible, fermentable carbohydrates (= prebiotics) leads to an enrichment of lactobacilli in the small intestine, and increased stability and diversity of the bacterial community in the colon. The data support the hypothesis that changes of the diet can modulate the composition of the microbiota in the intestine. These findings may have important implications for the development of dietary strategies aiming to improve animal health during the weaning process, and should therefore be of high interest to pig farmers and feed manufacturers.

Reported by

Wageningen University
Hesselink van Suchtelenweg 4
6703CT Wageningen
Netherlands
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