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Antibiotic use in pigs can damage gut microbiome and hinder productivity

A Professor with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine suggests, when using antibiotics to treat disease, one of the factors to keep in mind is the affect of those compounds on the gut microbiome.

31 December 2019, at 1:12pm

An Overview of Pig Gut Health Challenges: From Birth to Market will be among the topics discussed as part of a Swine Innovation Porc session planned for 7 January as part of the Banff Pork Seminar.

Speaking to Farmscape, Dr John Harding, a Professor in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan's Western College of Veterinary Medicine, says a combination of factors, including reduced antibiotic use, emerging diseases and a growing awareness of the role of the microbiome have heightened the level of interest in gut health in general.

"Anything we do that disrupts the microbiome could be particularly problematic and that's really true at birth but throughout the pig's life as well," says Dr Harding.

"Going hand in hand with that would be the use of antibiotics. We need antibiotics to treat disease obviously but there are times when we should not use antibiotics and there are specific diseases we should not use antibiotics for as well.

"I think any time we use them they should be judicious and used with care. There's no question that, when giving antibiotics to pigs, you will induce a shift in the microbiome.

"That's more likely to be the case when you have longer-term usage, so feed medications that would be in for a couple of weeks.

"What's very interesting is that, in some cases, the microbiome will shift back to its original state after the antibiotics have been removed and in other situations we'll see a permanent shift in the microbiome going forward.

"Understanding the consequences of antibiotic use on the microbiome is a really important aspect of research and I don't think we have all the answers yet."

Dr Harding suggests the point for producers and veterinarians to keep in mind when treating with antibiotics is there are consequences beyond the intended reason for treatment.

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