Enhancing piglet heal​th

​​ Leveraging the antimicrobial potential of fatty acids in nutritional appr​oaches

The weaning process poses significant challenges to piglets as they are separated from their mother sow when their digestive tract and immune system are still developing. This transition exposes them to new environments and unfamiliar pigs from different litters. Moreover, weaning stress can disrupt the balance of gut microbiota, increasing the risk of gastrointestinal diseases. Traditionally, antibiotics have been used to maintain piglet health and productivity. However, due to the rising resistance of pathogens and regulatory limitations, alternative solutions are in high demand.

Weaning-induced intestinal dysfunction

Weaning triggers an early inflammatory response that can contribute to anatomical and functional intestinal disorders in piglets.

Macro illustration of microbiota in the gut.  

​Studies have shown that weaning affects the expression of inflammatory cytokines, with an acute response in the initial days followed by a long-lasting response.​​ This inflammatory process can lead to lasting damage to the gut morphology and barrier function. Notably, the small intestinal villi, responsible for nutrient absorption, experience atrophy and crypt hyperplasia, impairing nutrient uptake.​

The benefits of butyric acid derivatives

Butyric acid derivatives such as butyric acid glycerides have demonstrated significant benefits for intestinal development. These derivatives are the end products of microbial fermentation of nondigestible carbohydrates known as short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs, including butyrate, propionate and acetate, serve as energy sources for host cells and intestinal bacteria, while also modulating metabolic responses. Butyric acid derivatives exhibit antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidative effects, crucial for maintaining gut health and improving barrier function. By supplementing feed with butyric acid glycerides, a continuous supply can be ensured throughout the digestive tract.​

Impact on intestinal microbiome

Weaning stress can disrupt the balance of gut microbiota, leading to dysbiosis. This imbalance can increase the risk of gastrointestinal diseases in piglets. Pathogenic microorganisms, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), can invade the susceptible intestinal environment of weaned piglets, triggering the secretion of inflammatory factors and damaging the intestinal mucosal barrier. Antibiotics have​ traditionally been used to control bacterial infections; however, their use can result in the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and a reduction in beneficial gut bacteria diversity, posing additional risks.​

Nursery piglets in sunshine.  

Antimicrobial properties of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) and MCFA-glycerol esters

In various industries, including livestock, there is growing interest in utilizing compounds with antimicrobial properties. Monoglycerides of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA-MG) have been found to disrupt the lipid membranes of pathogens, making them effective against a wide range of pathogenic bacteria and membrane-enveloped viruses. Fatty acids and monoglycerides exhibit membrane-disruptive prop​erties in their micellar form above their corresponding critical micellar concentration (CMC) values. These antimicrobial lipids, such as MCFA-MG, show promise in addressing viral and bacterial challenges in the swine and poultry industries. Their broad-spectrum activity, membrane-disruptive properties and potential to combat antibiotic resistance make them an area of active research and interest.​


To reduce the reliance on antibiotic treatments, it is crucial to control the presence and growth of pathogenic microorganisms while providing appropriate nutrition and minimizing stressors during the weaning process. Fatty acids and their monoglycerides offer intriguing antimicrobial properties that can play a significant role in nutritional strategies aimed at supporting piglet health and well-being. ​

Contact Eastman’s animal nutrition team for more information

Our dedicated team is excited to share more about two of our brands, Eastman Entero-Nova™ and Eastman Protaq™, which harness the power of fatty acids and their monoglycerides. Contact the team by filling in a form at https://www.eastman.com/Markets/Animal-Nutrition/Pages/Contact.aspx.