Formaldehyde-based feed additives are approved in the US for Salmonella control and reducing bacterial contamination in animal feed. However, we hypothesize formaldehyde inclusion in swine diets may influence gut microbial composition due to its antimicrobial properties which might negatively influence microbial populations and pig growth performance. Also, formaldehyde inclusion in diets is known to reduce the dietary availability of amino acids. Therefore, our study was conducted to characterize if the effects of feed formaldehyde-treatment are due to influences on microbial population or diet amino acid (AA) sources. Dietary treatments were arranged in a (2 × 2) + 1 factorial with formaldehyde treatment (none vs. 1000 ppm formaldehyde) and crystalline AA inclusion (low vs. high) with deficient AA content plus a positive control diet to contain adequate AA content without dietary formaldehyde. Treating diets with formaldehyde reduced growth rate (P = 0.001) while the AA inclusion had no evidence of impact. Formaldehyde reduced feed bacterial content and altered fecal microbial communities (P < 0.05). Therefore, we conclude that the negative influence on growth was due to the impact on the fecal microbial community. Implications are that strategies for feed pathogen control need to take into account potential negative impacts on the gut microbial community.
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