Longitudinal investigation of the swine gut microbiome from birth to market reveals stage and growth performance associated bacteria

Microbiome. 2019 Jul 30;7(1):109. doi: 10.1186/s40168-019-0721-7.


Background: Despite recent advances in the understanding of the swine gut microbiome at different growth stages, a comprehensive longitudinal study of the lifetime (birth to market) dynamics of the swine gut microbiome is lacking.

Results: To fill in this gap of knowledge, we repeatedly collected a total of 273 rectal swabs from 18 pigs during lactation (day (d) 0, 11, 20), nursery (d 27, 33, 41, 50, 61), growing (d 76, 90, 104, 116), and finishing (d 130, 146, 159, 174) stages. DNA was extracted and subjected to sequencing with an Illumina Miseq sequencer targeting the V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene. Sequences were analyzed with the Deblur algorithm in the QIIME2 package. A total of 19 phyla were detected in the lifetime pig gut microbiome with Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes being the most abundant. Alpha diversity including community richness (e.g., number of observed features) and diversity (e.g., Shannon index) showed an overall increasing trend. Distinct shifts in microbiome structure along different growth stages were observed. LEfSe analysis revealed 91 bacterial features that are stage-specific. To validate these discoveries, we performed fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) by inoculating weanling pigs with mature fecal microbiota from a growing stage pig. Similar stage-specific patterns in microbiome diversity and structures were also observed in both the FMT pigs and their littermates. Although FMT remarkably increased growth performance, it did not change the overall swine gut microbiome. Only a few taxa including those associated with Streptococcus and Clostridiaceae were enriched in the FMT pigs. These data, together with several other lines of evidence, indicate potential roles these taxa play in promoting animal growth performance. Diet, especially crude fiber from corn, was a major factor shaping the swine gut microbiome. The priority effect, i.e., the order and timing of species arrival, was more evident in the solid feed stages.

Conclusions: The distinct stage-associated swine gut microbiome may be determined by the differences in diet and/or gut physiology at different growth stages. Our study provides insight into mechanisms governing gut microbiome succession and also underscores the importance of optimizing stage-specific probiotics aimed at improving animal health and production.

Keywords: Dynamics; FMT; Growth stage and performance; Swine gut microbiome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Fecal Microbiota Transplantation
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Lactation
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Swine / growth & development*
  • Swine / microbiology*


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S