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Testing alternatives to in-feed antibiotics with enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli K88ac O148 as a model

The assessment of dietary strategies in weaning pigs is difficult. In commercial farms, accurate control of experimental conditions is problematic, whereas in experimental stations, hygienic standards are often not comparable to the ones of normal herds. The oral challenge with K88 E.coli has been often used in feeding trials on piglets. The predisposition to this colibacillosis depends on the presence of intestinal receptors for the fimbriae of K88 E.coli, but this susceptibility is not considered when feeding strategies are tested on challenged pigs.

We elaborated records relating to 372 piglets from 8 feeding trials. All the pigs were orally stimulated with K88 E.coli. The trials started at the weaning (14 to 21 d). After a variable period of adaptation, subjects were orally challenged with 1.5 ml of a 10x10 CFU/ml O149 K88ac E. coli suspension. Data were elaborated considering the trial and the susceptibility to K88 E.coli adhesion to small intestine villi, assessed by in vitro test on jejunum samples, and their interaction. Compared with records on negative pigs, oral stimulation in positive subjects reduced growth and feed intake and increased K88 E.coli faecal excretion, diarrhoea and anti K88 E.coli specific IgA secretion.

Not all these parameters where affected in all the trials. Villus height increased in 1 out of 3 trials in positive pigs. The oral challenge with K88 E.coli is a valid tool to study the effect of dietary strategies on growth, health and immunity of weaning pigs, but the susceptibility to K88 E.coli villus adhesion should be considered.

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