Review on Preventive Measures to Reduce Post-Weaning Diarrhoea in Piglets

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In many countries, medical levels of zinc (typically as zinc oxide) are added to piglet diets in the first two weeks post-weaning to prevent the development of post-weaning diarrhoea (PWD). However, high levels of zinc constitute an environmental polluting agent, and may contribute to the development and/or maintenance of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) among bacteria. Consequently, the EU banned administering medical levels of zinc in pig diets as of June 2022. However, this may result in an increased use of antibiotic therapeutics to combat PWD and thereby an increased risk of further AMR development. The search for alternative measures against PWD with a minimum use of antibiotics and in the absence of medical levels of zinc has therefore been intensified over recent years, and feed-related measures, including feed ingredients, feed additives, and feeding strategies, are being intensively investigated. Furthermore, management strategies have been developed and are undoubtedly relevant; however, these will not be addressed in this review. Here, feed measures (and vaccines) are addressed, these being probiotics, prebiotics, synbiotics, postbiotics, proteobiotics, plants and plant extracts (in particular essential oils and tannins), macroalgae (particularly macroalgae-derived polysaccharides), dietary fibre, antimicrobial peptides, specific amino acids, dietary fatty acids, milk replacers, milk components, creep feed, vaccines, bacteriophages, and single-domain antibodies (nanobodies). The list covers measures with a rather long history and others that require significant development before their eventual use can be extended. To assess the potential of feed-related measures in combating PWD, the literature reviewed here has focused on studies reporting parameters of PWD (i.e., faeces score and/or faeces dry matter content during the first two weeks post-weaning). Although the impact on PWD (or related parameters) of the investigated measures may often be inconsistent, many studies do report positive effects. However, several studies have shown that control pigs do not suffer from diarrhoea, making it difficult to evaluate the biological and practical relevance of these improvements. From the reviewed literature, it is not possible to rank the efficacy of the various measures, and the efficacy most probably depends on a range of factors related to animal genetics and health status, additive doses used, composition of the feed, etc. We conclude that a combination of various measures is probably most recommendable in most situations. However, in this respect, it should be considered that combining strategies may lead to additive (e.g., synbiotics), synergistic (e.g., plant materials), or antagonistic (e.g., algae compounds) effects, requiring detailed knowledge on the modes of action in order to design effective strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2585
Number of pages71
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Post-weaning diarrhoea
  • antimicrobial resistance
  • feeding strategies
  • medical zinc
  • piglets

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