How feed additives can improve intestinal health in pigs

Esterified Short Chain Fatty Acids: mechanisms of immunomodulation and improvement of intestinal health

The FORTIFY consortium is a newly developed cooperation between Utrecht University, Hogeschool Utrecht and Perstorp Waspik bv. It is known that glycerol esters of short chain fatty acids (eSCFA, a product of Perstorp) can increase intestinal health in pigs, which is the research focus of both the Molecular Host Defence Group of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UU) and the Research Centre for Healthy & Sustainable Living  of the HU, creating a logical and synergistic public-private-partnership.

Post Weaning diarrhea is a major problem in the pig farming industry that is primarily caused by enteric colibacillosis and occurs in 10-40% of over 10 million breeding sows in the EU, accumulating in losses of millions of euros annually in the EU alone. Antibiotics are most prevalently used to prevent post-weaning diarrhea but  increased bacterial resistance towards existing antibiotics will increase disease and economic costs of PWD and alternatives for antibiotics are urgently needed . 

Glycerol esters of short chain fatty acids (eSCFA) are such an alternative that, used as feed additive have proven beneficial effects on intestinal health. The exact mechanism how eSCFA increase health is currently unknown but it is described that they can upregulate specific immune molecules called Host Defence peptides (HDPs). Since HDPs can kill bacteria but also boost the immune system it is hypothesised that upregulation creates the health increasing effect of eSCFA.

The consortium will determine which HDPs are upregulated by eSCFA and will develop lab model-systems to simulate this effect. This can be used to determine how the increased set of HDPs contribute to intestinal health and thereby determine how eSCFA can be used best as feed additive.   

Addition of glycerol esters of short chain fatty acid (eSCFA) to pig feed has beneficial health effects and can thereby reduce the use of antibiotics in the farming industry. This project investigates which specific antimicrobial peptides are upregulated by eSCFA and determines how these peptides add to the health benefit.
Technology Readiness Level (TRL)
1 - 3
Time period
13.5 months