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Mode of action of HiZox in the weaned piglet

Faculty of Biological Sciences

Dr Amy Taylor , Prof Frank Dunshea , Dr Steven Laird Monday, April 19, 2021 Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
Leeds United Kingdom Agricultural Sciences Immunology Microbiology Zoology

About the Project

A critical period in the life of the pig is immediately post weaning as the piglet switches abruptly from a predominantly liquid milk diet, supplied by the sow, to a predominantly plant based diet, supplied by feed, and hence undergoes rapid complimentary changes in gut structure, function and microbiome. During this period piglets characteristically fail to maintain their feed intake, lose weight and are susceptible to post-weaning diarrhoea, often caused by enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC). Currently the main control measure used in the absence of growth promoting antibiotics to control and minimise diarrhoea is the inclusion of pharmacological levels of zinc oxide (ZnO) in piglet diets during the first 14 days after weaning. It is estimated that 70-90% of starter diets in the UK contain pharmacological levels of ZnO. However, the European Commission have voted to phase out the use of ZnO by 2022. The ban of pharmacological levels of ZnO is for many reasons including the build-up of heavy metals in the soil, antimicrobial resistance in both the animal and the soil, as well as the potential toxic effects of zinc accumulation in the animal. Although ZnO is widely used in pig production, the mode of action is not fully understood and there is, therefore, much interest in both elucidating the mode of action of and identifying alternatives to ZnO in the diet of weaned piglets. There is a need to replace ZnO in the diet of weaned pigs without losing the health benefits that pharmacological levels of ZnO provide to ensure that antibiotic usage does not increase and welfare is not compromised. 

The objective of this project is to determine the suitability of potentiated ZnO (HiZox) as an alternative for conventional pharmacological ZnO supplementation in young pigs at weaning. Attempts will be made to determine the mode of action of HiZox in the pig alongside conventional ZnO with emphasis on gut health, immunity and microbiology. As ZnO is a known inhibitor of trace-mineral absorption, primarily through its interaction with phytate, a secondary objective of this project is to determine the effect of HiZox on trace mineral status (primarily Fe2+, Zn2+, Cu2+ and Mn2+), and potential interactions of this product with phytase. Moreover, with recent legislation introduced in the EU designed to curb environmental Cu and Zn pollution, it is possible that HiZox supplementation may help livestock operations comply with these regulations. 

The project will involve a collaboration between the University of Leeds, UK, Faculty of Biological Sciences, and the Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy, Department of Veterinary Science for Health, Animal Production and Food Safety. The student will spend 1 year in Milan and 2.5 years in Leeds. In Milan the student will develop skills in immunity, gut permeability parameters and non-invasive biomarkers of gut health (Calprotectin). Skills developed in Leeds will include nutrient digestibility, nutrient absorption and mineral interactions.

Funding Notes

This is a 3.5 year studentship supported by Animine ( Applicants should have, or be expecting to receive, a 2.1 Hons degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. You will spend 1 year at Università degli Studi di Milano and 2.5 years at The University of Leeds.


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