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Interpretive Summary: Identification of the relationship between the gut microbiome and feed efficiency in a commercial pig cohort

By Anne Zinn

The ways in which gut microbes affect feed efficiency in pigs is still largely unknown even though feed efficiency is one of the most economically important traits in pig production. Gut microbiota plays an important role in energy harvest, nutrient metabolism, and fermentation of dietary indigestible components and while some studies have revealed possible links between gut microbiota and feed efficiency in pigs, these studies have only focused on the association between the composition of gut microbiota and feed efficiency. 

A recent study published in the Journal of Animal Science investigated the association  of bacterial composition and functional capacity of the gut microbiome with porcine feed efficiency using 16S rRNA gene and metagenomic sequencing methods. Then, serum metabolome and fecal short-chain fatty acids were determined to evaluate the correlation between residual feed intake, fecal short-chain fatty acids, and serum metabolome. Combining these datasets allowed the research team to investigate the possible mechanism of gut microbiota affecting pig feed efficiency.

Results showed that several members of Clostridiales were enriched in pigs with high feed efficiency, while those bacteria related to inflammation had a higher abundance in pigs with low feed efficiency. Additionally, propionic acid in feces and the metabolites related to amino acid metabolism in the serum had positive correlations with the feed efficiency. It is important to note that the sample size used for metagenomic sequencing was quite small and easily affected by an outlier.

Further studies are necessary to confirm the causality of gut microbes with porcine feed efficiency and to better explain the possible mechanism of gut microbiome affecting porcine feed efficiency. Nevertheless, the results provide potential biomarkers of gut microbiota that may be used for improving pig feed efficiency.

The full paper can be found on the Journal of Animal Science website.