This review summarises the evidence for a link between the porcine intestinal microbiota and growth and feed efficiency (FE), and suggests microbiota-targeted strategies to improve productivity. However, there are challenges in identifying reliable microbial predictors of host phenotype; environmental factors impact the microbe–host interplay, sequential differences along the intestine result in segment-specific FE-and growth-associated taxa/functionality, and it is often difficult to distinguish cause and effect. However, bacterial taxa involved in nutrient processing and energy harvest, and those with anti-inflammatory effects, are consistently linked with improved productivity. In particular, evidence is emerging for an association of Treponema and methanogens such as Methanobrevibacter in the small and large intestines and Lactobacillus in the large intestine with a leaner phenotype and/or improved FE. Bacterial carbohydrate and/or lipid metabolism pathways are also generally enriched in the large intestine of leaner pigs and/or those with better growth/FE. Possible microbial signalling routes linked to superior growth and FE include increased intestinal propionate production and reduced inflammatory response. In summary, the bacterial taxa and/or metabolic pathways identified here could be used as biomarkers for FE/growth in pigs, the taxa exploited as probiotics or the taxa/functionality manipulated via dietary/breeding strategies in order to improve productivity in pigs.
- Bacterial taxa
- Microbial metabolite signalling
- Mucosal immune response