PIGLETS fed probiotic Enterococcus faecium showed reduced numbers of potentially pathogenic Escherichia coli strains in their intestines, according to a team of German researchers.
The research team sought to investigate whether probiotics could substitute for antibiotics by reducing pathogen populations in the intestines, according to first author Carmen Bednorz of Freie Universitat Berlin, Germany. The study was published ahead of print in the journal Applied & Environmental Microbiology.
"We found a clear reduction of Escherichia coli strains possessing typical genes for extra-intestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC)," Bednorz said. The reduction was particularly noticeable in strains that adhere to the intestinal mucosa (but less so in the feces), which was "very interesting" because "ExPEC typically harbor a lot of adhesion genes that promote colonization of the mucosa," she said.
"Our data suggest that the feeding of probiotics could substitute for antimicrobials as growth promoters," Bednorz said. "This could help to reduce the burden of antimicrobial resistance."
In previous studies, working groups from the Institute of Microbiology & Epizootics at Freie Universitat Berlin found that feeding probiotic E. faecium did not change the general swine intestinal microbiota but reduced infections by chlamydia and pathogenic E. coli, according to the report.
In the study, Bednorz and her collaborators compared piglets fed E. faecium to those in a control group. They collected more than 1,400 samples of E. coli from piglets of different ages and from different parts of the intestine.
While a number of strains of E. coli are pathogenic, non-pathogenic E. coli "contributes to the maintenance of the microbial gut balance," according to the report. These were relatively unaffected by feeding pigs E. faecium, which "did not influence the overall intestinal E. coli diversity, corroborating previous data," the report adds.
Thus, the results suggest that E. faecium inhibits pathogenic E. coli from becoming attached to the intestinal mucosa, the researchers concluded.