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K-State Today

June 14, 2018

Veterinary researchers publish dietary supplement has negative impact on swine growth performance, gut microbiota 

By Gabriella Doebele

Formaldehyde-based feed additives are approved in the U.S. for Salmonella control and reducing bacterial contamination in animal feed but two College of Veterinary Medicine researchers have published a new study in Scientific Reports by Nature Publishing Group that reveals complications of the dietary treatment in swine. 

"The feed additive formaldehyde can be included in animal feed or ingredients to maintain complete feed and ingredients as Salmonella negative for up to 21 days in accordance with FDA regulations," said Raghavendra Amachawadi, assistant professor in the clinical sciences department.

According to Amachawadi, the use of the additive has increased recently in swine diets since other research demonstrated that treatment of the feed with formaldehyde inactivates Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus, a deadly disease in young swine.

"We hypothesized that the use of formaldehyde in swine diets may influence gut microbial composition due to its antimicrobial properties, which might negatively influence microbial populations and pig growth performance," said Amachawadi. "The use of in-feed antibiotics has led to concern about antibiotic resistance in gut bacteria and their influence on gut microbiota. Likewise, information is lacking regarding formaldehyde inclusion in the diet of pigs."

Amachawadi worked with Steve Dritz, professor and swine specialist in the diagnostic medicine and pathobiology department, on the study, which was the first to report the effects of formaldehyde treatment of diets on pig gut microbiota. While treating, the complete diet did reduce the microbial content of the feed as expected but treating the diets also led to reduced growth performance.

"We think that changes in gut microbiota, which contributes to nutrient utilization led to the reduced growth performance," Amachawadi said.

Amachawadi has previously published several articles in collaboration with Applied Swine Nutrition Research team on feeding practices that influence antimicrobial resistance and gut microbiota. These include: "Effects of dietary copper, zinc, and ractopamine HCl on finishing pig growth performance, carcass characteristics, and antimicrobial susceptibility of enteric bacteria" in the Journal of Animal Science.