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Development of a probiotic Bacillus pumilus as a substitute for in-feed medication for pigs

Project summary:

The routine use of in-feed antibiotics was banned in the EU in 2006 and the number permitted under veterinary prescription for pigs is now also restricted. Moreover, it is expected that in-feed antibiotics will be completely banned in the EU within the next 5 years, due to increasing concerns over antibiotic resistance. Another issue is that, although banned for routine use at pharmacological levels, Zinc Oxide (ZnO) is almost universally used in Ireland on prescription in weaned pig diets to reduce enteric disease. However, it is envisaged that levels allowed will be reduced to that sufficient to meet nutritional requirements in the coming years, due to toxicity and environmental concerns. This is already the case in some EU countries where pharmacological levels of ZnO are banned. Effective alternative feed additives which can achieve at least the same level of benefits to the animal as in-feed antibiotics/ZnO are therefore required. Those targeting Escherichia coli are particularly in demand, as over half of all economic losses in weaned pigs, for example, are due to E. coli infections, causing either diarrhoea or oedema disease. The solution to be developed in this proposal is a novel probiotic feed additive with anti-E. coli activity that can potentially address the challenge of maintaining the growth performance and herd health targets required for cost-effective pig production without the use of in-feed antibiotics/ZnO. In research to date we have shown an efficacy equivalent to medicated feed containing antibiotic + ZnO in terms of suppression of intestinal E. coli in newly weaned pigs, but without the adverse effects on growth performance, intestinal microflora and liver toxicity seen with the medicated feed.

Objectives/Expected benefits:

This project will generate additional data on safety and functionality of the probiotic strain by exploring delivery routes, stages of production and product manufacturability not yet explored to date. The intended outcomes include:

  • A detailed investigation of the market based on continued engagement with potential users of our technology
  • A fully validated and tested probiotic feed additive developed as an alternative to in-feed medication for one or more stages of pig production
  • A license-ready probiotic technology for pigs


Dr. Peadar Lawlor


Prof. Gillian Gardiner and Dr. Ruth Rattigan, Waterford Institute of Technology.

Funding body:

Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund Programme. The Commercialisation Fund is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under Ireland's European Union Structural and Investment Funds Programme 2014-2020.

For more information contact: Dr. Peadar Lawlor at Peadar.lawlor@teagasc.ie or 025 42217