The use of antibiotics to prevent post-weaning diarrhoea (PWD) in pigs has faced a setback owing to the associated antibiotic resistance in pigs and in the human populace that consumes the pork. In fact, antibiotic resistance that originates from the food chain is estimated to cause around 700,000 deaths globally each year. Consequently, scientists and researchers have suggested possible alternatives to antibiotics in pig diets. The chief of these has been the use of probiotics. The authors reviewed the literature on the use of probiotics as an alternative to antibiotics in treating PWD in pigs. It is clear that because of pathogenic Escherichia coli PWD continues to be a challenge to profitable swine production. The vast number of studies that was reviewed, point to the beneficial effects of probiotic supplementation on reducing the severity and incidence of PWD. However, some studies report inconsistencies to the general hypothesis. The majority of the microorganisms used as probiotics in the studies belong to the genera Lactobacilli, Bacillus, Bifidobacterium, Enterococcus, probiotic Escherichia coli, and Saccharomyces. The review also revealed that the bacterial strains that are used as probiotics are given individually or as combinations of multiple strains, and at various dosages, yielding varied results in each case. Interestingly, the authors observed wide disparities in the onset of probiotic supplementation and duration of the treatment to attain the results. Hence there is a need to standardize supplementation strategies, including dosage, onset and duration of treatment for probiotics. Furthermore, many of the in vivo studies that revealed positive effects of probiotics on diarrhoea and other production parameters were carried out in more controlled environments. The authors therefore suggest that more field studies in more natural and commercial farm settings should be conducted to augment the literature in relation to the use of probiotics as alternatives to antibiotics in treating PWD.
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