Pharmacological levels of zinc oxide (ZnO) can improve the health of weaning piglets and influence the intestinal microbiota. This experiment aimed at studying the dose–response effect of five dietary concentrations of ZnO on small intestinal bacteria and metabolite profiles. Fifteen piglets, weaned at 25 ± 1 days of age, were allocated into five groups according to body weight and litter. Diets were formulated to contain 50 (basal diet), 150, 250, 1000 and 2500 mg zinc/kg by adding analyticalgrade (>98% purity) ZnO to the basal diet and fed ad libitum for 14 days after a 7-day adaptation period on the basal diet. Ileal bacterial community profiles were analysed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and selected bacterial groups quantified by real-time PCR. Concentrations of ileal volatile fatty acids (VFA), D- and L-lactate and ammonia were determined.
Species richness, Shannon diversity and evenness were significantly higher at high ZnO levels. Quantitative PCR revealed lowest total bacterial counts in the 50 mg/kg group. Increasing ZnO levels led to an increase (p = 0.017) in enterobacteria from log 4.0 cfu/g digesta (50 mg/kg) to log 6.7 cfu/g digesta (2500 mg/kg). Lactic acid bacteria were not influenced (p = 0.687) and clostridial cluster XIVa declined (p = 0.035) at highest ZnO level. Concentration of total, D- and L-lactate and propionate was not affected (p = 0.736, p = 0.290 and p = 0.630), but concentrations of ileal total VFA, acetate and butyrate increased markedly from 50 to 150 mg/kg and decreased with further increasing zinc levels and reached low levels again at 2500 mg/kg (p = 0.048, p = 0.048 and p = 0.097). Ammonia decreased (p < 0.006) with increasing dietary ZnO level.
In conclusion, increasing levels of dietary ZnO had strong and dose-dependent effects on ileal bacterial community composition and activity, suggesting taxonomic variation in metabolic response to ZnO.
R Pieper, W Vahjen, K Neumann, AG Van Kessel, J Zentek. 2012. Dose-dependent effects of dietary zinc oxide on bacterial communities and metabolic profiles in the ileum of weaned pigs. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, 96:825-833. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0396.2011.01231.x