a1 Division of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA 6150, Australia
There are several enteric bacterial diseases and conditions of pigs that require control to prevent overt disease, to reduce morbidity and mortality, and to improve the efficiency of production. Traditionally, veterinarians, feed manufacturers and producers have relied upon antibiotics and minerals (for example, ZnO, CuSO4) in diets for a large part of this control. However, recent trends, particularly in Europe, are to reduce antimicrobial use and seek alternative or replacement strategies for controlling enteric bacterial diseases. The majority of these strategies rely on ‘nutrition’, taken in its broadest sense, to reduce the susceptibility of pigs to these diseases. Evidence to date suggests that specific dietary interventions, for example feeding very highly-digestible diets based on cooked white rice, can reduce the proliferation of a number of specific enteric bacterial infections, such as post-weaning colibacillosis. No simple and universal way to reduce susceptibility to pathogens in the gastrointestinal tract has been identified, and the underlying basis for many of the reported positive effects of ‘nutrition’ on controlling enteric infections lacks robust, scientific understanding. This makes it difficult to recommend dietary guidelines to prevent or reduce enteric bacterial diseases. Furthermore, some diseases, such as porcine intestinal spirochaetosis caused by Brachyspira pilosicoli, are sometimes associated with other pathogens (co-infections). In such cases, each pathogen might have different nutrient requirements, ecological niches and patterns of metabolism for which a variety of dietary interventions are needed to ameliorate the disease. Greater understanding of how ‘nutrition’ influences gut epithelial biology and immunobiology, and their interactions with both commensal and pathogenic bacteria, holds promise as a means of tackling enteric disease without antimicrobial agents. In addition, it is important to consider the overall system (i.e. management, housing, welfare) of pig production in the context of controlling enteric bacterial diseases.