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J Appl Microbiol. 1999 Oct;87(4):564-73.

The effect of zinc oxide supplementation on the stability of the intestinal flora with special reference to composition of coliforms in weaned pigs.

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1
Microbiology and Tumorbiology Centre, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm. mkatouli@usc.edu.au

Abstract

The effect of a dietary supplementation of zinc oxide (ZnO) on the stability of the intestinal flora and on the composition of coliforms in weaned pigs was investigated. Faecal floras were characterized by their metabolic activities and fermentative capacity (FC) using the Phene Plate generalized microplate. Coliforms were characterized by conventional enumeration and by the Phene Plate-RS plates. The latter measured FC, phenotypic diversity, persistence of each coliform strain in piglets, and similarity among the coliform populations within groups. From weaning onwards, the control pigs (n = 5) were fed a basal diet ad libitum, while experimental pigs (n = 5) were given the same food supplemented with 2500 ppm ZnO. Metabolic fingerprinting of faecal floras indicated marked differences between the composition of floras of treated and control pigs during the first 2 weeks post-weaning. The FC of faecal flora in both groups decreased as pigs aged, but it was significantly (P </= 0.0001) lower in control pigs during the first 2 weeks post-weaning. Neither the number of coliforms, nor their FC-values, differed between the groups. However, during the first 2 weeks post-weaning, there was a significant increase in both variety (P = 0.019) and diversity (P </= 0.001) of coliforms in control pigs compared with the ZnO treated group. Homogeneity between coliform populations of piglets was high during the suckling period, indicating the presence of many identical strains among piglets. This, however, decreased in control pigs during the first 2 weeks post-weaning. Several coliform strains that colonized the gut at the early stage of the pigs' life were found to be resident in animals of both groups. It is concluded that supplementation of ZnO to weaned pigs helped to maintain the stability of the intestinal microflora and the diversity of coliforms during the first 2 weeks post-weaning, but not later, and that ZnO supplementation to creep feed should be restricted to the first 2 weeks post-weaning in veterinary practice.

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