Changes in the microflora and physiology of the anterior intestinal tract of pigs weaned at 2 days, with special reference to the pathogenesis of diarrhea.


The gastrointestinal microflora and gastric physiology of piglets weaned at 2 days was compared with that of piglets allowed to continue sucking the sow. Although there was a significantly higher count of Escherichia coli in the stomach, duodenum, and jejunum of the early-weaned compared with sow-reared pigs, these differences were not detectable in samples from the ileum. There were no quantitative differences in lactobacilli and in streptococci between the two treatments. Lactobacillus fermentum, L. acidophilus, Streptococcus salivarius, S. bovis, and related biotypes were isolated from both groups of pigs. L. fermentum and S. salivarius were isolated more frequently from sow-reared piglets. The weight of digesta in the stomach was greater in weaned than in sucking pigs and was even greater in scouring weaned pigs, suggesting that in scouring pigs there may be gastric stasis. The gastric pH was higher in the weaned pigs at 4 days of age, but gradually decreased up to 10 days, during which time the lactic acid concentration rose. In weaned pigs there was a highly significant negative correlation between pH and lactic acid concentration in the stomach digesta, and also a positive correlation between pH and number of E. coli. These correlations suggest that lactic acid, from bacterial fermentation, is the major component in the regulation of gastric pH in weaned pigs. Three of twenty sucking pigs, but none of the weaned pigs, were secreting HCl (chloride concentration > 3 mg/g, pH < 3.5). In sucking pigs there was an inverse relationship between the chloride and lactic acid concentrations in the digesta. In weaned scouring pigs there was a nonsignificant increase in pepsin concentration in the stomach tissue. There was a threefold increase in the total proteolytic activity of the stomach tissue.


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