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Anim Nutr. 2018 Jun;4(2):126-136. doi: 10.1016/j.aninu.2017.09.001. Epub 2017 Sep 18.

Essential oils as alternatives to antibiotics in swine production.

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Department of Animal Science, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2, Canada.
Shanghai Lab-Animal Research Center, Shanghai 201203, China.
Guelph Food Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Guelph, ON N1G 5C9, Canada.
Jefo Nutrition Inc., Saint-Hyacinthe, QC J2S 7B6, Canada.


This review article summarizes the efficacy, feasibility and potential mechanisms of the application of essential oils as antibiotic alternatives in swine production. Although there are numerous studies demonstrating that essential oils have several properties, such as antimicrobial, antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects, feed palatability enhancement and improvement in gut growth and health, there is still a need of further investigations to elucidate the mechanisms underlying their functions. In the past, the results has been inconsistent in both laboratory and field studies because of the varied product compositions, dosages, purities and growing stages and conditions of animals. The minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) of essential oils needed for killing enteric pathogens may not ensure the optimal feed intake and the essential oils inclusion cost may be too high in swine production. With the lipophilic and volatile nature of essential oils, there is a challenge in effective delivery of essential oils within pig gut and this challenge can partially be resolved by microencapsulation and nanotechnology. The effects of essential oils on inflammation, oxidative stress, microbiome, gut chemosensing and bacterial quorum sensing (QS) have led to better production performance of animals fed essential oils in a number of studies. It has been demonstrated that essential oils have good potential as antibiotic alternatives in feeds for swine production. The combination of different essential oils and other compounds (synergistic effect) such as organic acids seems to be a promising approach to improve the efficacy and safety of essential oils in applications. High-throughput systems technologies have been developed recently, which will allow us to dissect the mechanisms underlying the functions of essential oils and facilitate the use of essential oils in swine production.


Essential oils; Inflammation; Medium chain fatty acids; Organic acids; Oxidative stress; Pigs

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