Ruminal acidosis is a condition in which the pH of the rumen is considerably lower than normal, and if severe enough can cause damage to the stomach and localized symptoms, or systemic illness in cows. Often, these symptoms result from the low pH reducing the ability of microorganisms to ferment fiber, or by killing them outright. Since the cow can’t break down most of its plant-based diet without these microorganisms, this disruption can cause all sorts of downstream health problems. Negative health effects can also occur when the pH is somewhat lowered, or is lowered briefly but repeatedly, even if the cow isn’t showing outward clinical symptoms. This is known as sub-acute ruminal acidosis(SARA), and can also cause serious side effects for cows and an economic loss for producers.
In livestock, acidosis usually occurs when ruminants are abruptly switched to a highly-fermentable diet- something with a lot of grain/starch that causes a dramatic increase in bacterial fermentation and a buildup of lactate in the rumen. To prevent this, animals are transitioned incrementally from one diet to the next over a period of days or weeks. Another strategy is to add something to the diet to help buffer rumen pH, such as a probiotic. One of the most common species used to help treat or prevent acidosis is a yeast; Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
This paper was part of a larger study on S. cerevisiae use in cattle to treat SARA, the effects of which on animal production as well as bacterial diversity and functionality have already been published by an old friend and colleague of mine, Dr. Ousama AlZahal, and several others.
The main driver of fungal diversity was diet; moving from a high-fiber diet to a high-grain diet (Figure 1) triggered a change in available nutrients (more starch, less fiber), and decreased in rumen pH due to the byproducts related to microbial digestion of those nutrients. Supplementation with active dry yeast only had minimal effect on fungal populations in the rumen, and did not help recover the fungal community found in healthy cows on a high-fiber diet. Saccharomyces-related sequences all classified as S. cerevisiae, though to multiple strains, but were not found in >1% mean relative abundance in any treatment group or significantly more abundant in any group. Thus, it was unclear if the yeast supplement was actively part of the rumen fungal community.
Similarly, diet was the major driver of protozoal diversity in the rumen (Figure 2), but there was also a small effect of the yeast supplementation. Taxonomic diversity was also different between the high-fiber control (what the cows were before) and the high-grain yeast-supplemented group, indicating that yeast supplementation did not recover the initial protozoal community which healthy cows had.
Another large difference was seen in the number and type of species found in three different locations within the rumen: those found in rumen fluid, those found attached to plant material (and presumably digesting it), and those found attached or associated with the rumen wall (epimural-associated). In cows fed the high-grain diets, there were not enough fungi in the rumen fluid to generate enough sequences for comparison, and the high-grain diet tended to reduce the number of different species found in any location. Fungal species richness was highest in plant-associated fractions, and there was surprisingly high species richness of fungi which were found along the rumen wall. Protozoal species richness was likewise reduced by a switch to a high-grain diet, and was highest next to the rumen wall.
Ishaq, S.L., AlZahal, O., Walker, N., McBride, B. 2017. An investigation into rumen fungal and protozoal diversity in three rumen fractions, during high-fiber or grain-induced sub-acute ruminal acidosis conditions, with or without active dry yeast supplementation. Frontiers in Microbiology 8:1943. Article.
Sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA) is a gastrointestinal functional disorder in livestock characterized by low rumen pH, which reduces rumen function, microbial diversity, host performance, and host immune function. Dietary management is used to prevent SARA, often with yeast supplementation as a pH buffer. Almost nothing is known about the effect of SARA or yeast supplementation on ruminal protozoal and fungal diversity, despite their roles in fiber degradation. Dairy cows were switched from a high-fiber to high-grain diet abruptly to induce SARA, with and without active dry yeast (ADY, Saccharomyces cerevisiae) supplementation, and sampled from the rumen fluid, solids, and epimural fractions to determine microbial diversity using the protozoal 18S rRNA and the fungal ITS1 genes via Illumina MiSeq sequencing. Diet-induced SARA dramatically increased the number and abundance of rare fungal taxa, even in fluid fractions where total reads were very low, and reduced protozoal diversity. SARA selected for more lactic-acid utilizing taxa, and fewer fiber-degrading taxa. ADY treatment increased fungal richness (OTUs) but not diversity (Inverse Simpson, Shannon), but increased protozoal richness and diversity in some fractions. ADY treatment itself significantly (P < 0.05) affected the abundance of numerous fungal genera as seen in the high-fiber diet: Lewia, Neocallimastix, and Phoma were increased, while Alternaria, Candida Orpinomyces, and Piromyces spp. were decreased. Likewise, for protozoa, ADY itself increased Isotricha intestinalis but decreased Entodinium furca spp. Multivariate analyses showed diet type was most significant in driving diversity, followed by yeast treatment, for AMOVA, ANOSIM, and weighted UniFrac. Diet, ADY, and location were all significant factors for fungi (PERMANOVA, P = 0.0001, P = 0.0452, P = 0.0068, Monte Carlo correction, respectively, and location was a significant factor (P = 0.001, Monte Carlo correction) for protozoa. Diet-induced SARA shifts diversity of rumen fungi and protozoa and selects against fiber-degrading species. Supplementation with ADY mitigated this reduction in protozoa, presumptively by triggering microbial diversity shifts (as seen even in the high-fiber diet) that resulted in pH stabilization. ADY did not recover the initial community structure that was seen in pre-SARA conditions.
Ishaq, S.L.*, O. AlZahal, N. Walker, B. McBride. 2017. Modulation of sub-acute ruminal acidosis by active-dry yeast supplementation and its effect on rumen fungal and protozoal populations in liquid, solid, and epimural fractions. Congress on Gastrointestinal Function, Chicago, IL, April 2017. (accepted talk).
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