Development of the tonsillar microbiome in pigs from newborn through weaning

Luis Carlos Pena Cortes, Rhiannon M. Leveque, Julie Funk, Terence L. Marsh, Martha H. Mulks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Porcine tonsils are lympho-epithelial tissues, colonized by numerous bacteria and viruses, that act as a reservoir for both host-specific pathogens and zoonotic pathogens with a high potential of transmission to humans. There are no existing studies describing the development of the tonsillar microbiome. We sequenced 16S rRNA genes from tonsillar samples of pigs to follow the development of the microbial communities from birth through weaning. Samples derived from sows were also analyzed to determine potential sources for the tonsil microbiome in piglets. Results: The composition of the newborn piglet tonsil microbiome could be differentiated by litter and had strong similarity to the sow teat skin as well as sow vaginal microbiome. The tonsil microbiome in these young piglets was mainly dominated by members of the Pasteurellaceae, Moraxellaceae, and Streptococcaceae families, while there were some transient members of the microbiome that were abundant at specific times, such as Staphylococcaceae in newborns and Fusobacteriaceae and Leptotrichiaceae in weeks 2 and 3. The microbiome initially differed between litters but over the following 3 weeks the communities of different litters converged in composition and then diverged in week 4 due to a combination of changes and stresses associated with weaning, including a shift from milk to a solid diet, in-feed Carbadox® and room change. Conclusions: A significant portion of the tonsil microbiome was acquired either at birth from the sow vaginal tract or within a few hours post-birth from the sow teat skin. Our data demonstrate a temporal succession in the development of the pig tonsillar microbiome through the first weeks of life, with a convergence in the composition of the microbiome in all piglets by 3 weeks of age. The combination of management practices associated with weaning coincided with dramatic shifts in the tonsillar microbiome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number35
JournalBMC Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 16 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Microbiome development
  • Pigs
  • Tonsil
  • Tonsillar microbiome
  • Weaning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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