Weight gain by gut microbiota manipulation in productive animals

Microb Pathog. 2017 May:106:162-170. doi: 10.1016/j.micpath.2016.11.002. Epub 2016 Nov 9.


Antibiotics, prebiotics and probiotics are widely used as growth promoters in agriculture. In the 1940s, use of Streptomyces aureofaciens probiotics resulted in weight gain in animals, which led to the discovery of chlortetracycline. Tetracyclines, macrolides, avoparcin and penicillins have been commonly used in livestock agriculture to promote growth through increased food intake, weight gain, and improved herd health. Prebiotic supplements including oligosaccharides, fructooligosaccharides, and galactosyl-lactose improve the growth performance of animals. Probiotics used in animal feed are mainly bacterial strains of Gram-positive bacteria and have been effectively used for weight gain in chickens, pigs, ruminants and in aquaculture. Antibiotics, prebiotics and probiotics all modify the gut microbiota and the effect of a probiotic species on the digestive flora is probably determined by bacteriocin production. Regulations governing the introduction of novel probiotics and prebiotics vary by geographical region and bias is very common in industry-funded studies. Probiotic and prebiotic foods have been consumed for centuries, either as natural components of food, or as fermented foods and it is possible to cause the same weight gain effects in humans as in animals. This review presents the use of growth promoters in food-producing animals to influence food intake and weight gain.

Keywords: Antibiotics; Growth promoters; Gut microbiota; Obesity; Prebiotics; Probiotics.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed / microbiology
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Aquaculture
  • Chickens / growth & development
  • Eating
  • Fermentation
  • Food Microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Glycopeptides / therapeutic use
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria
  • Growth Substances
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Lactobacillus
  • Macrolides / therapeutic use
  • Obesity
  • Oligosaccharides / metabolism
  • Penicillins / therapeutic use
  • Poultry / growth & development
  • Prebiotics*
  • Probiotics* / history
  • Probiotics* / therapeutic use
  • Ruminants / growth & development
  • Streptomyces aureofaciens
  • Swine / growth & development
  • Tetracyclines / therapeutic use
  • Weight Gain*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Glycopeptides
  • Growth Substances
  • Macrolides
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Penicillins
  • Prebiotics
  • Tetracyclines
  • fructooligosaccharide
  • avoparcin