Skip to main content Accessibility help

Effects of dietary supplementation with freshwater microalgae on growth performance, nutrient digestibility and gut health in weaned piglets

  • H. Furbeyre (a1) (a2), J. van Milgen (a1), T. Mener (a2), M. Gloaguen (a2) and E. Labussière (a1)...


In pigs, digestive disorders associated with weaning lead to antibiotic use to maintain intestinal health. Microalgae have been studied in humans and rodents for their beneficial effects on health. The nutritional value of microalgae in animal diets has been assessed, but results were not conclusive. Dietary supplementation with microalgae as an alternative to antibiotic use was studied in two trials (72 piglets with initial BW=9.1±1.1 kg in trial 1 and 24 piglets with initial BW=9.1±0.9 kg in trial 2). All piglets were weaned at 28 days of age and then housed in individual cages. Piglets were randomly allocated to one of the four diets during 2 weeks after weaning: a standard diet with no supplementation (NC) or the standard diet supplemented with 1% Spirulina (SP), with 1% Chlorella (CV), or with 0.2% of colistin as positive control (PC). Trial 1 was performed to determine the effect of microalgae supplementation from 28 to 42 days on performance and incidence of diarrhoea. Animals received then a standard diet from 42 to 56 days of age. Trial 2 was performed from 28 to 42 days of age to assess nutrient digestibility of the experimental diets and to determine inflammatory status and intestinal morphology at 42 days of age. In trial 1, 94% of the pigs had diarrhoea in the 1st week after weaning with no beneficial effect of colistin on diarrhoea incidence, average daily feed intake (ADFI), average daily gain (ADG), and gain : feed (G : F) ratio. This suggests that the diarrhoea was due to digestive disorders that did not result from enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli infection. Supplementation with either Spirulina or Chlorella did not affect ADFI, ADG and G : F in trials 1 and 2 (P>0.10). Diarrhoea incidence was reduced in CV pigs compared with NC, SP and PC pigs (P<0.05). Total tract digestibility in pig receiving microalgae was greater for gross energy (P<0.05), and tended to be greater for dry matter, organic matter and NDF (P<0.10) compared with NC and PC pigs. Villus height at the jejunum was greater in SP and CV pigs compared with NC and PC pigs (P<0.05). This study shows a potential effect of both Spirulina and Chlorella supplementation on intestinal development and a potential of Chlorella supplementation to manage mild digestive disorders. Further investigation is necessary to determine the mechanism action of Spirulina and Chlorella on gut health and physiology.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC) 1990. Official methods of analysis, 15th edition. Association of Official Analytical Chemists, Arlington, VA, USA.
Barton, MD 2000. Antibiotic use in animal feed and its impact on human health. Nutrition Research Reviews 13, 279299.
Bikker, P, Dirkzwager, A, Fledderus, J, Trevisi, P, Le Huërou-Luron, I, Lallès, JP and Awati, A 2006. The effect of dietary protein and fermentable carbohydrates levels on growth performance and intestinal characteristics in newly weaned piglets. Journal of Animal Science 84, 33373345.
Chaiklahan, R, Chirasuwan, N and Bunnag, B 2012. Stability of phycocyanin extracted from Spirulina sp.: influence of temperature, pH and preservatives. Process Biochemistry 47, 659664.
Cherng, J, Liu, C, Shen, C, Lin, H and Shih, M 2010. Beneficial effects of Chlorella-11 peptide on blocking LPS-induced macrophage activation and alleviating thermal injury-induced inflammation in rats. International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology 23, 811820.
Eckersall, PD and Bell, R 2010. Acute phase proteins: biomarkers of infection and inflammation in veterinary medicine. The Veterinary Journal 185, 2327.
Hoseini, SM, Khosravi-Darani, K and Mozafari, MR 2013. Nutritional and medical applications of Spirulina microalgae. Mini Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry 13, 12311237.
Huang, C, Qiao, S, Li, D, Piao, X and Ren, J 2004. Effects of Lactobacilli on the performance, diarrhea incidence, VFA concentration and gastrointestinal microbial flora of weaning pigs. Asian Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences 17, 401409.
Janczyk, P, Halle, B and Souffrant, WB 2009. Microbial community composition of the crop and ceca contents of laying hens fed diets supplemented with Chlorella vulgaris . Poultry Science 88, 23242332.
Kitada, K, Machmudah, S, Sasaki, M, Goto, M, Nakashima, Y, Kumamoto, S and Hasegawa, T 2009. Antioxidant and antibacterial activity of nutraceutical compounds from Chlorella vulgaris extracted in hydrothermal condition. Separation Science and Technology 44, 12281239.
Lallès, J-P, Boudry, G, Favier, C, Le Floc’h, N, Luron, I, Montagne, L, Oswald, IP, Pié, S, Piel, C and Sève, B 2004. Gut function and dysfunction in young pigs: physiology. Animal Research 53, 301316.
Lamb, R 1968. Colistin sulphate in the treatment of specific bacterial intestinal infections. Scottish Medical Journal 13, 912.
Le Dividich, J 1981. Effects of environmental temperature on the growth rates of early-weaned piglets. Livestock Production Science 8, 7586.
Le Floc’h, N, Jondreville, C, Matte, JJ and Sève, B 2006. Importance of sanitary environment for growth performance and plasma nutrient homeostasis during the post-weaning period in piglets. Archives of Animal Nutrition 60, 2334.
Le Floc’h, N, Le Bellego, L, Matte, JJ, Melchior, D and Sève, B 2009. The effect of sanitary status degradation and dietary tryptophan content on growth rate and tryptophan metabolism in weaning pigs. Journal of Animal Science 87, 16861694.
Lipstein, B and Hurwitz, S 1980. The nutritional value of algae for poultry. Dried Chlorella in broiler diets. British Poultry Science 21, 921.
Mao, X, Gu, C, Hu, H, Tang, J, Chen, D, Yu, B, He, J, Yu, J, Luo, J and Tian, G 2016. Dietary Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG supplementation improves the mucosal barrier function in the intestine of weaned piglets challenged by porcine rotavirus. PloS One 11, e0146312.
Montagne, L, Cavaney, FS, Hampson, DJ, Lallès, JP and Pluske, JR 2004. Effect of diet composition on postweaning colibacillosis in piglets. Journal of Animal Science 82, 23642374.
Montagne, L, Le Floc’h, N, Arturo-Schaan, M, Foret, R, Urdaci, MC and Le Gall, M 2012. Comparative effects of level of dietary fiber and sanitary conditions on the growth and health of weanling pigs. Journal of Animal Science 90, 25562569.
Pak, W, Takayama, F, Mine, M, Nakamoto, K, Kodo, Y, Mankura, M, Egashira, T, Kawasaki, H and Mori, A 2012. Anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of Spirulina on rat model of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition 51, 227234.
Pastorelli, H, Floc’h, L, Merlot, E, Meunier-Salaün, M, Van Milgen, J and Montagne, L 2012. Feed restriction applied after weaning has different effects on pig performance and health depending on the sanitary conditions. Journal of Animal Science 90, 48664875.
Peiretti, PG and Meineri, G 2008. Effects of diets with increasing levels of Spirulina platensis on the performance and apparent digestibility in growing rabbits. Livestock Science 118, 173177.
Pié, S, Lallès, J, Blazy, F, Laffitte, J, Sève, B and Oswald, I 2004. Weaning is associated with an upregulation of expression of inflammatory cytokines in the intestine of piglets. Journal of Nutrition 134, 641647.
Pluske, JR, Hampson, DJ and Williams, IH 1997. Factors influencing the structure and function of the small intestine in the weaned pig: a review. Livestock Production Science 51, 215236.
Sauvant, D, Perez, J-M and Tran, G 2004. Tables of composition and nutritional value of feed materials: pigs, poultry, cattle, sheep, goats, rabbits, horses and fish. Wageningen Academic Publishers, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Sommer, F and Bäckhed, F 2013. The gut microbiota – masters of host development and physiology. Nature Reviews Microbiology 11, 227238.
Tokuşoglu, Ö and Ünal, MK 2003. Biomass nutrient profiles of three microalgae: Spirulina platensis, Chlorella vulgaris, and Isochrisis galbana . Journal of Food Science 68, 11441148.
Torrallardona, D, Conde, MR, Badiola, I, Polo, J and Brufau, J 2003. Effect of fishmeal replacement with spray-dried animal plasma and colistin on intestinal structure, intestinal microbiology, and performance of weanling pigs challenged with Escherichia coli K991. Journal of Animal Science 81, 12201226.
Van Soest, PJ, Robertson, J and Lewis, B 1991. Methods for dietary fiber, neutral detergent fiber, and nonstarch polysaccharides in relation to animal nutrition. Journal of Dairy Science 74, 35833597.
Vijayavel, K, Anbuselvam, C and Balasubramanian, M 2007. Antioxidant effect of the marine algae Chlorella vulgaris against naphthalene-induced oxidative stress in the albino rats. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry 303, 3944.
Wassell, J 2000. Haptoglobin: function and polymorphism. Clinical Laboratory 46, 547552.
Whelan, K, Judd, P and Taylor, M 2004. Assessment of fecal output in patients receiving enteral tube feeding: validation of a novel chart. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 58, 10301037.
Wu, S, Zhang, F, Huang, Z, Liu, H, Xie, C, Zhang, J, Thacker, PA and Qiao, S 2012. Effects of the antimicrobial peptide cecropin AD on performance and intestinal health in weaned piglets challenged with Escherichia coli . Peptides 35, 225230.
Yap, TN, Wu, J. F., Pond, W. G. and Krook, L 1982. Feasibility of feeding Spirulina maxima, Arthrospira platensis or Chlorella sp. to pigs weaned to a dry diet at 4 to 8 days of age. Nutrition Reports International 25, 10.
Yin, F, Yin, Y, Kong, X, Liu, Y, He, Q, Li, T, Huang, R, Hou, Y, Shu, X and Tan, L 2008. Dietary supplementation with Acanthopanax senticosus extract modulates gut microflora in weaned piglets. Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences 21, 13301338.
Zhu, L, Zhao, K, Chen, X and Xu, J 2012. Impact of weaning and an antioxidant blend on intestinal barrier function and antioxidant status in pigs. Journal of Animal Science 90, 25812589.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Effects of dietary supplementation with freshwater microalgae on growth performance, nutrient digestibility and gut health in weaned piglets

  • H. Furbeyre (a1) (a2), J. van Milgen (a1), T. Mener (a2), M. Gloaguen (a2) and E. Labussière (a1)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.