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ARS Home » Plains Area » College Station, Texas » Southern Plains Agricultural Research Center » Food and Feed Safety Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #344224

Research Project: Ecological Reservoirs and Intervention Strategies to Reduce Foodborne Pathogens in Cattle and Swine

Location: Food and Feed Safety Research

Title: Nigella sativa L. as an alternative antibiotic feed supplement and effect on growth performance in weanling pigs

item PETRUJKIC, BRANKO - University Of Belgrade
item Beier, Ross
item He, Louis
item Genovese, Kenneth - Ken
item Swaggerty, Christina - Christi
item Hume, Michael
item Crippen, Tawni - Tc
item Harvey, Roger
item Anderson, Robin
item Nisbet, David

Submitted to: Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/11/2017
Publication Date: 6/1/2018
Publication URL:
Citation: Petrujkic, B.T., Beier, R.C., He, L.H., Genovese, K.J., Swaggerty, C.L., Hume, M.E., Crippen, T.L., Harvey, R.B., Anderson, R.C., Nisbet, D.J. 2018. Nigella sativa L. as an alternative antibiotic feed supplement and effect on growth performance in weanling pigs. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 98(8):3175-3181.

Interpretive Summary: Livestock farmers are under increasing pressure to reduce their use of antibiotics to control disease and enhance production. This pressure is generally due to the concern of public health officials that extensive antibiotic use may contribute to the development and spread of antimicrobial resistant bacteria to both humans and animals. Consequently, there is a need for new technologies to help farmers maintain the optimal health and wellbeing of their animals. Nigella sativa, commonly named black cumin, is a plant that naturally contains chemical compounds that could potentially be used in place of antibiotics to improve the health and welfare of farm animals. To test this possibility, we fed black cumin to young pigs and measured their growth performance and their ability to resist unwanted bacterial infections. We found that feeding black cumin dramatically improved the growth efficiency of the pigs, with nearly 60% improvement in the conversion of feed consumed into live weight gained during the 9 days of this short duration study. Furthermore, we found that feeding black cumin helped the pigs resist colonization by a common yet unwanted bacterium named Escherichia coli that is particularly bad for young pigs. Feeding black cumin at the levels used in this study did not improve the ability of the pigs to resist infection by two other pathogenic bacteria named Campylobacter and Salmonella. These results provide important information about a potential new feed ingredient that when combined with other feed ingredients and good management, can help pig farmers improve the health and wellbeing of their young animals. Ultimately, these results will help pig farmers find new ways to safely and economically produce high quality and wholesome pork products at less cost to the American consumer.

Technical Abstract: Nigella sativa L. (NS) is a plant containing bioactive constituents such as thymoquinone. Extracts of NS improve performance and reduce enteropathogen colonization in poultry and small ruminants, but studies with swine are lacking. Oral administration of NS extracts at doses equivalent to 0, 1.5, and 4.5 g kg–1 diet dry matter (0X, 1X and 3X) were assessed on piglet performance and intestinal carriage of wildtype Escherichia coli, Campylobacter, and Salmonella Typhimurium. Escherichia coli populations in gut contents collected 9 days and 42 h after initiation of NS were significantly or near-significantly decreased (P < 0.14), with populations recovered from 1X and 3X NS-treated pigs being 0.52 to 1.81 Log10 units lower than the controls (ranging from 6.05 to 8.17 Log10 CFU g–1). Campylobacter and S. Typhimurium were unaffected (P > 0.10) by NS treatment. Feed efficiency over the 9 days of study to improve linearly (P < 0.05) from 3.88 with 0X-treated pigs to 1.47 and 1.41 with 1X and 3X NS-treated pigs, respectively, possibly due to the high glutamine/glutamic acid content of the NS extract. NS supplementation of weanling pigs improved feed efficiency and helped control intestinal E. coli during this vulnerable production phase.