Applying knowledge of the human microbiome to pig health

A microbiology professor with the University of Guelph says many of the discoveries related to the gut microbiome of humans can be applied to benefit the health of pigs.
calendar icon 13 January 2020
clock icon 3 minute read

The microbiome, the microbial population in the gut, helps regulate gut motility, educate the immune system, process and digest food and many other things, Farmscape reports.

Dr Emma Allen-Vercoe, a Professor of Microbiology with the University of Guelph and a Tier-1 Canada Research Chair, told those on hand last week for a Swine Innovation Porc session held in conjunction with the Banff Pork Seminar, pigs and humans share a lot of anatomical similarities.

"We are both omnivores and we have the same kind of adult weights and size of our guts, the same kind of ratio to the rest of our bodies and there's a number of other things that suggest that what we're learning in humans can be applied to pigs fairly successfully," explains Dr Allen-Vercoe.

"I think the period of time before weaning is an opportune window to change things in the pig.

"It might be an improvement in resilience and resistance to diseases that are caused by common pathogens which, at the moment, are being managed through higher biosecurity, lots of cleaning and trying to keep these pathogens out.

"In fact another strategy might be to actually colonise the microbiota with organisms that can naturally out compete these pathogens and so that biosecurity doesn't need to be quite as tight because it's very expensive and very difficult sometimes to put together.

"I would hope that by providing a more diverse microbiome to a pig, that is being engineered and we can engineer that to help resist certain pathogens that cause big problems especially during that weaning period."

Dr Allen-Vercoe says we're just learning the factors that make a healthy gut microbiome and the factors that promote its development so it will be interesting to see how things unfold.

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