An experiment was designed to evaluate the effects of 3 different additives on the gastrointestinal microbiota of early-weaned pigs. Early-weaned (18 to 22 d; n = 32) pigs (6.0 ± 0.10 kg of BW) from 8 litters were randomly distributed into 8 pens. Each pen was assigned 1 of 4 dietary treatments: a prestarter or control diet, the control diet with 0.04% avilamycin (AB), with 0.3% sodium butyrate, or with 0.03% plant extract mixture (XT; standardized mixture with 5% (wt/wt) carvacrol extracted from Origanum spp., 3% cinnamaldehyde extracted from Cinnamonum spp., and 2% capsicum oleoresin from Capsicum annum). At the end of the experimental period, 8 pigs per treatment were killed, and samples of their intestinal content were taken. The total bacterial load along the gastrointestinal tract (GIT; stomach, jejunum, cecum, and distal colon) and the lactobacilli and enterobacteria in the jejunum and cecum were measured by quantitative PCR. The total microbial counts along the GIT did not differ among the diets, but there was an increase in the lactobacilli:enterobacteria ratio in the cecum of the piglets on the XT diet (P = 0.003). Restriction fragment length polymorphism of the PCR-amplified V3, V4, and V5 regions of the 16S rDNA gene showed changes in the structure of the microbial community in the jejunum. Dendrograms grouped animals by diets; control with 0.3% sodium butyrate was the treatment that promoted the biggest changes in the microbial ecosystem, followed by AB and then XT. Biodiversity increased when using additives compared with the control diet (P = 0.002). Microbial metabolic activity along the hindgut was studied using the concentration of purine bases and carbohydrase activities. Different patterns for purine bases were observed between diets (diet × intestinal section, P = 0.01). The control diet reached a maximum purine base concentration at the end of the colon, whereas that of the AB diet was reached at the cecum. We could not detect any cellulase or xylanase activities in animals of this age. Appreciable amylase and amylopectinase activities were found, but they did not differ between diets. The results suggest that the effects of avilamycin, butyrate, or the plant extract would not be related to a reduction in the number of total bacteria inhabiting different sections of the GIT but rather to changes in the ecological structure and metabolic activity of the microbial community. ©2006 American Society of Animal Science. All rights reserved.
- Quantitative polymerase chain reaction
- Restriction fragment length polymorphism
- Weaning pig