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Research article2007Peer reviewed

Effects of crude red kidney bean lectin (phytohemagglutinin) exposure on performance, health, feeding behavior, and gut maturation of pigs at weaning

Thomsson A, Rantzer D, Westrom BR, Pierzynowski SG, Svendsen J


The aim of this study was to obtain information that could help to ease the weaning transition in commercial pig production. Before weaning, phytohemagglutinin (PHA) in the form of a crude preparation of red kidney bean lectin was fed by gavage to 24 crossbred [(Swedish Landrace x Yorkshire) x Hampshire] piglets, whereas 24 control piglets were fed a.-lactalbumin by gavage, to study the effect on growth, occurrence of postweaning diarrhea, feeding behavior, and some anatomical and physiological traits of the gastrointestinal tract. Within the litter, piglets were randomly assigned to PHA treatment or control and remained in the same pen from the beginning (PHA exposure at 7 d before weaning) until the end of the experiment (14 d postweaning). Weaning took place at the age of 31 to 34 d. Pigs treated with PHA grew faster (P = 0.013) during the first week postweaning and tended to have lower total diarrhea scores (P = 0.10) than did control pigs. On d 5 after weaning, piglets treated with PHA spent more time eating (P = 0.028) than control pigs. No immuno-stimulating effect of PHA, measured by plasma immunoglobulin G, could be detected. An increase in the intestinal barrier properties before weaning, as a response to PHA treatment, was demonstrated in intestinal absorption studies using Na-fluorescein and BSA as gavage-fed markers. Less uptake (measured as plasma concentrations) of the marker molecule Na-fluorescein occurred during a 24-h study period, and numerically lower levels of BSA were observed compared with studies in control pigs of the same age. A total of 12 pigs (6 control, 6 PHA-treated) were euthanized on the day of weaning for analyses of gastrointestinal properties. The PHA-treated pigs tended to have a longer total small intestinal length (P = 0.063) than that of the control pigs. The enzyme profile of the jejunal epithelium responded to PHA exposure with a decrease in lactase activity and an increase in maltase and sucrase activities, which is similar to changes normally observed after weaning. No differences were found in the size of the pancreas or in its contents of trypsin and amylase. In conclusion, exposing piglets to crude, red kidney bean lectin for 3 d during the week before weaning led to changes in performance and small intestinal functional properties that would be expected to contribute to a more successful weaning

Published in

Journal of Animal Science
2007, Volume: 85, number: 2, pages: 477-485

      SLU Authors

    • Thomsson, Annica

      • Department of Rural Buildings and Animal Husbandry [LBT], Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
      • Rantzer, Dan

        • Department of Rural Buildings and Animal Husbandry [LBT], Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Animal and Dairy Science
      Veterinary Science

      Publication identifier


      Permanent link to this page (URI)