Acta Vet. Brno 2015, 84: 243-247

Bacterial overgrowth can be detected by breath hydrogen measurement before clinical manifestations in suckling lambs

András Jávor1, Anikó Nagy1,2, Ágnes Papp-Bata3, Nóra Vass1, János Oláh1, Zoltán Csiki2

1University of Debrecen, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences and Environmental Management, Department of Animal Breeding, Debrecen, Hungary
2University of Debrecen, Faculty of Medicine, Division of Clinical Immunology, Debrecen, Hungary
3University of Debrecen, Faculty of Applied Economics and Rural Development, Debrecen, Hungary

Received October 6, 2014
Accepted February 25, 2015

Hydrogen breath test is a non-invasive and inexpensive method for estimation of small bowel transit time, detection of excess bacteria in the small intestine and demonstration of maldigestion or malabsorption. Until now, little has been known about breath hydrogen excretion in lambs. The aim of our study was to assess the patterns of breath hydrogen excretion in lambs before and after feeding ewe’s milk, and to evaluate pathological and/or physiological alterations in the lambs’ gastrointestinal function. We assumed that intestinal disorders may influence the breath hydrogen concentrations, which could be detected early in the subclinical stage. A total of 52 healthy black-headed Dorper lambs were included in the study. Breath hydrogen was measured after overnight fasting and at 30, 60 and 90 min after the start of feeding. There was a 2-week follow-up period after the measurements to assess the gastrointestinal health of lambs. During the follow-up period, clinical signs of diarrhoea developed in 6 lambs. Based on our results in healthy lambs, the median concentration of baseline breath hydrogen was 1.00 parts per million (minimum: 0.00, maximum: 2.00). We observed a significant elevation in breath hydrogen concentrations 60 min after feeding (P = 0.004), whereas the values detected 30 min after feeding were similar to the baseline values. Regarding the lambs in which clinical signs of diarrhoea developed, we revealed significantly higher baseline breath hydrogen concentrations compared to those which remained healthy (P < 0.001). Our observations underline that hydrogen breath test may be a useful tool for indicating potential bacterial overgrowth before any clinical signs of diarrhoea.


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