Effects of dietary combinations of organic acids and medium chain fatty acids on the gastrointestinal microbial ecology and bacterial metabolites in the digestive tract of weaning piglets

J Zentek, F Ferrara, R Pieper, L Tedin, W Meyer, W Vahjen
Journal of Animal Science 2013, 91 (7): 3200-10
Organic short and medium chain fatty acids are used in diets for piglets because they have an impact on the digestive processes and the intestinal microbiota. In this study, 48 pens (2 piglets/pen) were assigned randomly to 4 diets, without additive (control), with organic acids (OA; 0.416% fumaric and 0.328% lactic acid), with medium chain fatty acids (MCFA; 0.15% caprylic and capric acid), and a combination of OA and MCFA, to assess changes in the gastrointestinal microbiota with 12 pens per diet. Eight to nine piglets from each group were euthanized after 4 wk. Organic acids, MCFA, and pH in the digesta were determined and the intestinal microbiota was quantified by real-time PCR. The different diets had no effect on the growth performance. Concentration of added fumaric acid was below the detection limit in the upper small intestine whereas the concentration of lactic acid in the digesta was not affected by the treatments. The added MCFA was recovered in the MCFA treated groups in the stomach, but the concentrations declined in the upper small intestine. Concentration of short chain fatty acids was reduced in the colon digesta in piglets fed diets with OA compared with those fed unsupplemented diets (P = 0.029). The MCFA resulted in a pH reduction of the digesta, likely because of the effect on bacterial acid production. The addition of OA increased cell counts of Bacteroides-Porphyromonas-Prevotella group and clostridial clusters XIVa, I, and IV in the stomach, the clostridial cluster XIVa in the jejunum, and Bacteroides-Porphyromonas-Prevotella in the ileum and reduced counts of Streptococcus spp. in the colon (P < 0.05). The MCFA induced only minor changes in the gastrointestinal microbiota but increased cell counts for the Escherichia-Hafnia-Shigella group in the jejunum and the clostridial cluster XIVa in the colon digesta (P < 0.05). In the colon of piglets fed diets with organic OA, reduced mean cell counts of STb (est-II) positive Escherichia coli were found. In conclusion, OA and MCFA had effects on the intestinal microecology in piglets. The decrease of the intestinal pH and the reduction of E. coli virulence genes by OA could make the combination of short chain fatty acids and MCFA as interesting gut flora modifiers, which can eventually prevent postweaning diarrhea.

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