New strategies for nutritional immunomodulation: use of Porcibal® in swine production
Postbiótico Porcibal Lechones

This study has analyzed the effect of supplementation with the postbiotic PORCIBAL® during gestation and lactation of Iberian sows, as well as on their piglets during the first week of life. The results obtained show these products as a tool of interest that allows an improvement in the sanitary and zootechnical indexes in these stages of production. Among the most relevant results, the improvement in production rates, especially from the first week of life, as well as the reduction in the occurrence of diarrhea and the use of antibiotics, stand out.


There is a growing interest in focusing disease prevention on achieving a good level of immunity and digestive health. There are numerous lines of research aimed at developing better nutritional immunomodulation strategies to improve animal health and thus zootechnical parameters.
The intestinal microbiota of the piglet is established within a few days after birth (some authors note that after 48 hours from birth) and its composition depends on factors such as the microorganisms existing in the birth canal, contact with maternal feces or contact with the udder skin after the first colostrum feedings (Nowland et al., 2019). In the conformation of this intestinal microbiota, the cleanliness of the environment in which the sows find themselves during gestation (mainly the last third) and lactation also plays a very important role (Law et al., 2021).
This microbial colonization of the gut in the first hours of life directly influences the physiology and development of the host, shaping its phenotype (Everaert et al., 2017) and plays an essential role in modulating the immature gastrointestinal tract to generate functionally efficient systems when the animal is an adult.
Therefore, from a practical point of view, we can say that the neonatal stage, and even prepartum in breeding sows, may be the most efficient times to influence the microbiota, establishing more robust and lasting benefits in piglets.
One of the most popular strategies at present is the use of postbiotics, which can be defined as molecules or compounds of non-viable bacterial products that possess bioactive properties. But what do we know about the role of postbiotics in the intestinal health of piglets?



The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of the administration of postbiotic products in the feeding of the mothers (Duroc x Iberian) in crossbred piglets (Duroc x Iberian).INGUBAL Swine®.) during gestation-lactation as well as directly orally (PORCIBAL® PORCIBAL) to piglets in the first week of life, on different health and productive parameters.



Animals and experimental design

This study is a continuation of the work published in No. 002 of the journal Tierra porcino (García-Jiménez et al., 2023), in which a reduction in neonatal mortality was observed in piglets from dams supplemented with the postbiotic INGUBAL Swine®.
The experience has been carried out in a commercial farm of Iberian pigs located in Mérida (Badajoz). The study used 56 Iberian sows weaned at 28 days post-partum and artificially inseminated (AI) at 3 days post-weaning. After positive gestation diagnosis (35 days post AI), two groups were made based on the two types of prepartum and lactation feeding. Control group or conventional feed (CM) formed by 28 sows and Postbiotic group (PM) formed by another 28 sows that were supplemented with the postbiotic INGUBAL Swine® (2 kg/tn) incorporated in the conventional feed. The feed supplemented with the postbiotic began to be used after the confirmation of gestation and was maintained throughout prepartum (86 days) and until the end of lactation (28 days), for a total of 104 days of consumption.
In this part of the study we have focused mainly on the monitoring and analysis of different productive indexes and health parameters recorded during the lactation phase of the piglets obtained from the selected sows. A total of 197 piglets were used, distributed in 4 experimental groups according to the treatment received by their mothers and by the piglets themselves. The experimental groups were distributed as shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Distribution of piglets included in the study according to sex and experimental group to which they belong.

Three days after birth, each piglet was individually identified (taking advantage of the application of iron). Piglets belonging to the control group (CL) were identified with numbered blue ear tags and those belonging to the postbiotic group (PL) with numbered yellow ear tags. From each litter, the two largest males were selected and were each included in a group (yellow vs. blue). These animals were selected as controls for sanitary sampling (as detailed below). The rest of the piglets in each litter were randomly identified with blue or yellow ear tags.
The treatments were applied at two different times. A first application of 1 ml of PORCIBAL® orally during the first handling (3 days of life) and 4 days later, 2 ml of PORCIBAL® was administered orally to the same animals. The piglets in the control group (blue ear tags) received the same doses, but in this case of sterile water, to simulate the stress of handling the animals. The application was performed by means of automated syringes with oral cannula adapted to the species.
Management during lactation has been as usual in this production system, with ad libitum lactoinitiator (Babigol®) from the 5th day of life, and pre-weaning feed (Babipres®) from 7 days before weaning.
The health treatments of the piglets have been the usual ones in these Iberian pig production systems: application of injectable iron complex (3 days of life) and commercial vaccine against E. coli (18 days of life).

Animals and experimental design

For the productive indexes, the individual weight of each piglet was recorded at three points in time: at birth, at one week of life and at weaning. With these values we were able to calculate the average daily gain throughout lactation (ADG) and in two stages, from birth to the first week of life (ADG-1) and from the first week of life to weaning (ADG-2). For this analysis, the sex of the piglets was taken into account.
Piglet losses were also monitored at the individual level throughout the lactation period, categorizing this parameter into 3 ranges depending on the age of the piglets. Piglets less than 2 days old (weak-born), piglets from 2 to 8 days old and piglets over 8 days old. As well as the appearance of diarrhea in the litter and the use of antibiotics.

Hematological Health Indices

For the analysis of sanitary biomarkers, 14 control piglets were selected from each experimental group. Whole blood and serum samples were obtained by cavernous sinus puncture and collected in EDTA tubes for hematological analysis and in tubes with coagulation activator for the determination of biochemical parameters. Samples were transported at 4°C and kept refrigerated until processing in the laboratory, where serum was obtained by centrifugation at 3000 rpm.
Hemograms were performed using a hematology analyzer(Celltac α MEK-6550, Nihon Kohden) to determine the parameters of the red series (red blood cell count, hemoglobin and hematocrit) and white series (leukocyte, lymphocyte, neutrophil and eosinophil counts).
In addition, an automatic clinical chemistry analyzer(Biosystem A15) was used to determine the protein profile (total protein, albumin and urea) and other general profile parameters such as alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH).

Characterization of pathogenicity factors of Escherichia coli isolates.

PCR characterization (Zhang et al., 2007) of the pathogenicity factors of Escherichia coli(E. coli) isolates obtained by rectal swab sampling of the 14 control piglets belonging to each experimental group was performed. Swabs were collected both at first handling (3 days of life) and at weaning (28 days of life).

Statistical Analysis

GraphPad Prism 8.0.2 was used for the statistical treatment of the individual data obtained and to establish the effect of the postbiotics used on the different parameters studied. Differences were considered significant at P< 0 .05.



Analysis of Productive Indexes

The following table shows the evolution of GMD in the different phases (GMD1 and GMD2), for the 4 experimental groups and according to the sex of the animals.

Table 2. Comparison of mean daily gain among the 4 experimental groups according to piglet sex.

Regarding the evolution of mean daily gains, a drop in GMD2 with respect to GMD1 was observed in piglets (both males and females) from dams that had not consumed postbiotic during gestation and lactation (Figures A and B). However, this drop was less accentuated in piglets that received PORCIBAL® during the first week of life, especially in the case of females (Graph B).

Porcibal. Graphs. evolution of average daily earnings.

In the experimental groups in which the dams were supplemented with INGUBAL Swine® (2 kg/tn) during gestation and lactation, better growth rates were observed in the second stage (GMD2), as can be seen in graphs C and D.

He further noted that GMD2 was higher for piglets that were also supplemented with PORCIBAL® when compared to piglets that did not receive it, specifically 6% higher for males and 13% higher for females.
The direct influence of the sow’s gut microbiome on the composition of the colostrum and milk microbiome has been demonstrated (Chen et al., 2018). Therefore, we can deduce that interventions that positively modify the sow’s gut microbiome will result in positive effects on the piglet’s microbiome and gut health.

Incidents during lactation

As for the incidences during lactation, there was a 20% increase in the number of crushes in the control group compared to the postbiotic group. This parameter would be related to the higher mortality of piglets less than 2 days old observed in the control group and could be a reflection of a higher % of piglets born weak in this group. The following table (Table 3) shows the animals (%) that have presented incidences in the two groups.

Table 3. Number of animals that have presented incidences and their percentages

Regarding the incidence of diarrhea and therefore the application of antibiotics, both parameters were slightly lower in piglets from dams supplemented with the postbiotic.

Hematological Health Indicators

The analysis of hematological biomarkers was carried out on 14 control piglets selected from each group. The following table (Table 4) shows the mean values for each hematic parameter in the animals of the 4 groups at the end of the experiment.

Table 4. Mean values of hematic parameters at the end of the experiment.

It is observed that most of the values are within the normal range for the species in the four experimental groups (Khan, 2008), indicating the food safety of the additives used.
Only values above the range were detected for hematocrit, which was especially high in the CM-CL group(p< 0.05) and could be related to a certain level of dehydration. White blood cells are within normality, although a higher value is observed in the CM-PL group. Also noteworthy are the higher levels of lymphocytes in the PM-CL and PM-PL groups, which could be related to a possible better cellular response in these animals.
Regarding biochemical parameters, most values were found to be within the reference ranges for the species. The following table (Table 5) shows the mean values for each blood biochemical parameter in the animals of the four feeding groups at the end of the experiment.

Table 5. Mean values of biochemical parameters at the end of the experience.

Only the LDH values above the range in the animals of the four groups stand out, and no statistically significant differences were observed between them.

Characterization of pathogenicity factors of Escherichia coli isolates.

No pathogenicity factors were detected in any of the E. coli isolates obtained in the four experimental groups in the sampling performed 3 days after birth. In contrast, virtually 100% of the piglets sampled had some pathogenicity factor in their E. coli isolates at weaning. The following table shows the proportion of E. coli isolates and their pathogenicity factors (Table 6).

Comparison of the four experimental groups in terms of the proportion of E. coli isolates with pathogenicity factors obtained from rectal swabs collected at weaning.

For an E. coli isolate to have the ability to cause diarrhea in piglets, it is considered necessary for it to present among its pathogenicity factors both adhesion fimbriae and enterotoxins (Pérez et al., 2016). In our study, all isolates in cells with red background presented this capacity. Regarding the experimental groups, 53.6% of the piglets from the dams that did not receive the postbiotic had the capacity to cause diarrhea compared to 17.8% of the piglets in the case of the supplemented dams. This result is directly related to the higher rate of diarrhea and higher antibiotic use in piglets from unsupplemented dams.



The use of the postbiotic INGUBAL Swine® during gestation and lactation of Iberian sows, as well as PORCIBAL® in piglets during the first week of life, has proven to be an interesting tool that allows an improvement in health and zootechnical indexes at this stage of production. The improvement in the productive indexes, especially from the first week of life, in piglets from mothers supplemented with postbiotics (+13%GMD, -20% crushing), as well as the reduction in the occurrence of diarrhea (-3%) and in the use of antibiotics (-7.5% ATB) are noteworthy. All this would be based on the action of postbiotics used to improve intestinal health.



The authors would like to thank Anabel Moreno(Veterinaria-Grupo Solano) and all the farm personnel who participated in the experience (Moisés, Jose, Javi, Alicia and Juan) for their invaluable collaboration.



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