Is the future of animal nutrition in postbiotics?

In Brief

The animal nutrition market has faced numerous challenges over the last ten years and is now driven by several trends. These include the reduction in the use of antimicrobial substances, which are at the root of antibiotic resistance among humans, the reduction in carbon footprint, and the improvement of animal welfare. All three will have a major influence on the future of animal nutrition.

This is, in particular, a priority objective for the European Union, which is setting out a strategy to make food systems fair, healthy, and environmentally friendly via:

  • The Green Deal, which represents a set of measures aimed at steering the European Union towards ecological transition
  • The European Union’s ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy, launched in 2020, which aims to make agriculture safer and more responsible.

Indeed, Zinc Oxide and antibiotic growth promoters are now banned in the European Union, pushing farmers to find environmentally friendly alternatives.

A pioneer postbiotic

It is now well recognized that microorganism populations, be it in the digestive tract, on the skin, or in the oral cavity, can be modulated using ‘biotics’. A new category has now emerged besides pre and probiotics since the 2021 consensus paper by the International Scientific Association of Pre- and Probiotics (ISAPP), namely postbiotics which are defined as ‘a preparation of inanimate micro-organisms and/or their components that confers a health benefit on the target host’ (Salminen et al 2021). It can contain intact inanimate microbial cells and or microbial cell fragments or structures, with or without metabolites or end products.

Postbiotics offer several advantages over well-known pre-and probiotics. Prebiotics first need to selectively stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria, while probiotics need to become active in the digestive tract and start producing active components. In contrast, postbiotics already contain their active components in large amounts, since these are produced in large numbers during the fermentation process. Therefore, they can act immediately on the microbiota and intestinal epithelial cells. Inactivation also means that postbiotics are highly stable.

We believe that, due to their inherent properties, postbiotics can bring sustainable solutions to contribute to the future of animal nutrition and help farmers to offer consumers quality proteins, to support the health of their animals (through immune efficiency in particular), but above all to ensure the well-being of their livestock.

A good example of postbiotics is represented by Lactobacillus LB. It is a patented combination of two strains of bacteria: Limosilactobacillus fermentum and Lactobacillus delbrueckii isolated from the human GI tract. Following several steps of controlled co-fermentation, the bacteria are inactivated by heat treatment and dried with their metabolites and culture medium. Discovered in 1907, with over hundred years of developments, Lactobacillus LB is a pioneer in postbiotics, and has been extensively studied for its properties and impact on the performance of production animals.

In this article, we will introduce how this particular postbiotic can be a part of the future of weaned pig nutrition.

Reduces the usage of anti-microbials

Weaning is a delicate phase in piglets. The change of feeding regimen can bring dysbiosis, impair growth and make them more susceptible to numerous diseases. In case of pathogen infection, farmers often resolve to use antimicrobials such as ZnO, antibiotics. A way to reduce the use of these antimicrobials is to improve gut health, to prevent or fight pathogens infection. Postbiotics such as Lactobacillus LB have been shown to modify gut microbiome into a more beneficial bacterial population first in humans (Warda et al 2020) and mice (Warda et al 2019 ).

A study on the impact of Lactobacillus LB (Xu et al 2022) on post-weaning piglets highlighted various benefits in the intestinal bacterial population:

  • Modulation of the microbiome: improvement in the diversity and activity of the microbiota associated with the jejunal mucosa,
  • Increase in the abundance of beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacilli,
  • Reduction in the quantity of pathogenic bacteria such as Helicobacter.

Lactobacillus LB postbiotic also possesses the ability to bind to intestinal epithelial cells (Chauviere et al., 1992; Coconnier et al., 1993), and inhibit the epithelial cell association and invasion by several strains of enteropathogenic bacteria including Escherichia Coli and Salmonella (Coconnier et al., 1993).

These modes of action help the reduction in the intensity and duration of diarrhea linked to E.Coli in post-weaning piglets. Several challenges with both F4 and F18 strains (Xu et al 2020; Tacon et al 2022a) as well as field studies (Tacon et al 2022b), showed that Lactobacillus LB improves both the fecal scores during diarrhea episodes and the diarrhea duration on par, or even better than pharmacological doses of ZnO and antibiotics (bacitracin). In fact, adding Lactobacillus LB on top of ZnO proved to enhance the effect of the treatment compared to ZnO alone (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Improves feed conversion

Improving feed conversion, i.e., reducing intrants for the same growth performance not only reduces costs for the pig breeder but also helps reduce the intake of plant or animal proteins from unsustainable resources.

Using postbiotics, in that regard, represents a good tool to improve the sustainability of pig farming. They can both improve growth and feed conversion in sick and healthy animals.

In challenged animals, improvements of gut health were positively correlated with markers of intestinal health, leading to greater feed efficiency and better growth rates (Xu et al 2022). A recent unpublished study in France confirmed previous results obtained in the United States, that Lactobacillus LB is also improving feed conversion ratio (FCR) in healthy animals. A program of administration of two doses of Lactobacillus LB from 42 to 70 days after weaning showed a reduced FCR (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Evolution of the standardized FCR at 8-30 kg in weaned piglets fed with Lactobacillus LB (dsm-firmenich internal data).

Improves immunity – improves well-being

As we have seen, postbiotics can directly improve gut health by controlling the pathogen load in the intestinal tract and promoting the development of beneficial bacteria. Another key mode of action is to raise immunity, and especially immunity associated with the intestine. Trials in mice and piglets have shown a modulation of cytokines associated with pathogen control (IL17f, IL8), and an overall decrease in inflammation (Warda et al 2020b, Xiangyi et al 2021). Lactobacillus can also increase the expression of interferon-γ and PGLYRP4 genes in pig intestines and reduce the expression of genes associated with pathogen recognition, which may indicate a reduction of the pathogen invasion (Duarte et al 2023).

A practical ingredient

When it comes to the future of animal nutrition, the notion of practicality is essential: the product must be easy to use and simple to incorporate. Furthermore, to limit cold chain and shelf-life constraints, a suitable ingredient is a stable ingredient.

Postbiotics as Lactobacillus LB offer an ingredient in powder form that is easy to use and incorporate into animal feed, whether liquid or solid. A solution that withstands the formulation constraints of animal feed. LBiotix™, by virtue of its postbiotic condition, also resists the acidic pH of the stomach, for assured action.

Stability over time and in the face of temperature variations is ensured by the very nature of the ingredient: inanimate and therefore insensitive to environmental variations.

Postbiotics are an integral part of the future of animal nutrition

The action of postbiotics attenuates the inflammatory response, strengthens the intestinal barrier, inhibits the growth of pathogenic bacteria, and promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine. They seek to play a crucial role in addressing future global challenges by offering an ingredient that satisfies market expectations: naturalness, combating excessive or inappropriate use of antimicrobials, animal welfare and health.

Published on

15 January 2024


  • AMR
  • Environmental Footprint
  • Sustainability & Welfare
  • Sustainability
  • Swine
  • Piglet

About the Author

Philippe Tacon - Global Product Manager for Microbials, Animal Nutrition & Health at dsm-firmenich

Philippe Tacon obtained his PhD at the University of Rennes, France. He has over 25 years of experience in the field of animal nutrition, both as a scientist and business leader. He has joined dsm firmenich following the acquisition of Adare Biome in 2023 and is currently Global Product Manager for Microbials.


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