Probiotics mediated gut microbiota diversity shifts are associated with reduction in histopathology and shedding of Lawsonia intracellularis

Adrian Muwonge, Anbu K Karuppannan, Tanja Opriessnig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: Clinical intervention during bacterial infections in farm animals such as pigs commonly consists of antimicrobial use. With the rise of antimicrobial resistance and the attempts to reduce the use of antibiotics in food animals, effective alternatives are urgently needed to reduce or even remove pathogens and disease risk. Improving clinical outcomes and overall pig health by using probiotics appears attractive. However, reliable data sets on the efficacy of probiotics are scarce. The obligate intracellular bacterium Lawsonia intracellularis is widespread in pigs and associated with severe enteropathy, mainly in the ileum, commonly resulting in substantial reduction in weight gain. The impact of three in-feed probiotics and a commercial live L. intracellularis vaccine were compared in a pig challenge model. Probiotic treatment was associated with reduced L. intracellularis fecal shedding and reduced gut lesions. Here, the bacterial microbiota of the ileum of these pigs was characterized with 16S rRNA gene sequencing and was subsequently analyzed with bioinformatics tools.

Results: The greatest microbial richness was observed in the probiotic treated group T03-LAW, which accounted for 87% of richness observed in the study. Treatment had a significant impact on both the microbiota structure and taxonomic profile in the ileum, explaining between 26-36% of the structural variation, with the strongest association in the T03-LAW group. Overall, the largest changes were observed for the pigs treated with in-feed Bacillus pumilus; the microbiota of these pigs had the greatest diversity and highest richness. We also observed depleted and enriched core microbiota amongst the groups; however, there was no correlation with clinical characteristics. The results suggest that an increased diversity of the ileal microbiota is associated with a reduction in shedding, i.e. a unit increase in Shannon diversity index resulted in 2.8 log reduction in shedding.

Conclusions: Probiotic supplementation of a base feed ration increased ileum microbiota diversity leading to a mitigation of the effects of a pathogenic L. intracellularis challenge. An even and diverse microbiota community benefits pigs infected with L. intracellularis, however, investigations are needed to determine if this is also true for other pathogens. The study unambiguously demonstrates the usefulness of probiotic supplementation in reducing the impact of enteric pathogens and pathogen shedding rates in food animals without the use of antimicrobials.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnimal Microbiome
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Lawsonia intracellularis
  • Pigs
  • Probiotics
  • Vaccine
  • Microbial community
  • Metagenomics


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