CANADA - A scientist with the University of Alberta says research suggests microorganisms in the guts of pigs that help ward off disease can be transferred to other pigs to improve their health, writes Bruce Cochrane.
Swine Innovation Porc has identified the microbiome as a top research priority in improving the health of pigs while reducing the pork industry's reliance on antibiotics.
"The Intestinal Microbiome to Enhance Infection Resistance in Pigs" was among the topics discussed last week as part of the Banff Pork Seminar.
Dr Ben Willing, the Canada Research Chair in Microbiology of Nutrigenomics with the University of Alberta, says the estimated of 500 to 1,000 bacterial species found within each animal serve many roles including digesting compounds the pig can not digest and they regulate the immune system and the infiltration of immune cell populations to make that animal healthy.
Dr Ben Willing-University of Alberta:
Microbiomes can vary quite a bit between animal to animal and each animal will have it's own distinct population but you'll certainly see that animals that are living in a similar environment and are living together will have much more similar microbiomes than animals that are living in different environments.
We certainly see evidence that microbiomes can be transferred, particularly in the case when we see animals that are mixed.
If you take animals that have lived apart and then you put them into that same environment you'll see that their microbiomes will start to look closer to each other, so obviously there's a transfer from one animal to another.
We're not really sure but, certainly if you take a group of animals that are more resistant based on their microbiome and introduce them to animals that are susceptible, that if you're transferring the microbiomes they're going to make the susceptible animals more resistant.
We've seen some very clear work by doing that in mouse models but less has been done in pigs.
Dr Willing anticipates further advances in the coming years, being able to associate specific organisms with specific functions and being able to identify which dietary components can drive a beneficial microbiome.
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