Yeast may replace antibiotics as a piglet growth promoter, according to a nutritionist speaking at the Seventh International Levucell SB Technical Meeting. The nutritionist's overarching message was that pig producers could benefit from looking at piglets' diets, not just post-weaning feeding, as a means to reduce antibiotics use.

Yeast as an alternative

Giovanni Savoini, a professor at the University of Milan in Italy, brought the nutritionist’s point of view to the issue of alternatives to antibiotics. He focused his talk on dietary alternatives to antibiotics in piglets’ feed, such as probiotics, prebiotics, organic acids and plant extracts. According to his work, the yeast S. cerevisiae boulardii I-1079 is one of the most promising alternatives, thanks to its ability to modulate the piglet microbiota, promote intestinal health and gastrointestinal structure, and its well demonstrated mode of action. He showed some promising data indicating that Levucell SB could be a tool to maintain growth performance in the absence of antibiotics. A 2015 trial also indicates that the live yeast is compatible with zinc oxide and antibiotics and is able to act in synergy with zinc oxide to improve growth performance.

The danger of antibiotic resistance


Miguel Angel Higuera, DVM, from the Spanish Association of Swine Producers, is engaged in a European working group on swine health and welfare. He gave meeting attendees an overview of the situation with antibiotics in European agriculture. Antibiotic growth promoters have been banned in Europe since 2006, but their prophylactic use is still accepted. Today, consumers’ concern for antibiotic-free food products and the risk that antibiotic resistant pathogens pose to human health have fueled the need for real alternative strategies. Higuera explained the reality of the problem in terms of human public health “each year, 25,000 persons die because of multi-resistant pathogens,”and gave a clear overview of European present and future regulations on medicated feed, expected to come into action early 2017.

Current reduction efforts in the EU

However, in Higuera’s opinion, it is important to keep in mind that feed, which represents 38 percent of antibiotics used by the sector, is not the only source of the problem and efforts should be made in any direction. He illustrated his presentation by different local initiatives. For example, Denmark, who seems to lead the way in terms of antibiotic reduction, has achieved close to a 50 percent reduction in nearly two decades and is still working on it. Higuera concluded that maintaining animal health is vital for the competitiveness of European pig production.