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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2012 Jun;78(12):4217-24. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00307-12. Epub 2012 Mar 30.

High-throughput sequence-based analysis of the intestinal microbiota of weanling pigs fed genetically modified MON810 maize expressing Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ab (Bt maize) for 31 days.

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  • 1Teagasc, Pig Development Department, Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland.


The objective of this study was to investigate if feeding genetically modified (GM) MON810 maize expressing the Bacillus thuringiensis insecticidal protein (Bt maize) had any effects on the porcine intestinal microbiota. Eighteen pigs were weaned at ~28 days and, following a 6-day acclimatization period, were assigned to diets containing either GM (Bt MON810) maize or non-GM isogenic parent line maize for 31 days (n = 9/treatment). Effects on the porcine intestinal microbiota were assessed through culture-dependent and -independent approaches. Fecal, cecal, and ileal counts of total anaerobes, Enterobacteriaceae, and Lactobacillus were not significantly different between pigs fed the isogenic or Bt maize-based diets. Furthermore, high-throughput 16S rRNA gene sequencing revealed few differences in the compositions of the cecal microbiotas. The only differences were that pigs fed the Bt maize diet had higher cecal abundance of Enterococcaceae (0.06 versus 0%; P < 0.05), Erysipelotrichaceae (1.28 versus 1.17%; P < 0.05), and Bifidobacterium (0.04 versus 0%; P < 0.05) and lower abundance of Blautia (0.23 versus 0.40%; P < 0.05) than pigs fed the isogenic maize diet. A lower enzyme-resistant starch content in the Bt maize, which is most likely a result of normal variation and not due to the genetic modification, may account for some of the differences observed within the cecal microbiotas. These results indicate that Bt maize is well tolerated by the porcine intestinal microbiota and provide additional data for safety assessment of Bt maize. Furthermore, these data can potentially be extrapolated to humans, considering the suitability of pigs as a human model.

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