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Sows and their piglets were fed a diet supplemented with or without the probiotic E. faecium NCIMB10415 (also known as SF68). Piglets were sacrificed 14, 28, 35 and 56 days after birth and DNA from intestinal segments was extracted and purified. A real time PCR assay was used to distinguish Enterococcus spp. (16s rDNA based), E. faecium (Efaafm gene), E. faecalis (Efaafs gene) as well as the probiotic strain (unique plasmid sequence). Extracts of autoclaved sow feces inoculated with E. faecium and E. faecalis cultures were used to calibrate real time PCR results. The probiotic strain was detected in 14 day old suckling piglets before the piglets had access to the starter diet. In piglets of the probiotic group, probiotic E. faecium cell counts were always a significant proportion of total E. faecium cells in stomach digesta (4-20%), however only a small fraction of the total Enterococcus spp. cell number on day 14 and 28 in all intestinal segments (0.1-0.7%). Compared to control samples, the probiotic E. faecium strain significantly (p < or = 0.05) decreased the amount of total Enterococcus spp. and E. faecalis cells in the colon of 14 day old suckling piglets as well as in jejunum and colon samples one week after weaning. E. faecium cell counts were not modified on any sampling day or intestinal segment. This study showed that the presence of probiotic E. faecium NCIMB10415 coincided with reduced total E. faecalis, but not total E. faecium cell numbers in the intestine of piglets. In view of unchanged cell numbers and ratios in sow feces, modifications must have taken place within the intestine of suckling piglets.