Modern genetic tools are helping to control the most critical pig diseases

A Professor with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine says new tools in genetics are helping control disease on farms.
calendar icon 12 March 2020
clock icon 3 minute read

Modern genetic technology has provided new tools to allow the use of genomic selection for disease resilience. Speaking to Farmscape, Dr John Harding, a Professor with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, notes scientists have been looking at disease resilience or resistance for the last 20 to 30 years.

"One of the most historic examples that I can remember in my career is the identification of the halothane gene and how we've used it since the early 1990s to eliminate porcine stress syndrome from the pig industry," says Dr Harding.

"There are other examples of single mutations, including the FUT1 gene. It codes for E. coli and has been used to help control post weaning diarrhoea back 15 to 20 years ago.

"We see more recent examples which are really related more to resilience. That is the PRRS WUR SNP which codes for the GBP5 protein which has been used by some of the breeding companies to create animals that are more resilient to PRRS.

"There's a similar gene called synaptogyrin which has been used for PCV2 resilience now.

"We're not seeing that one in the industry quite yet but I'm sure it will come quickly and then we've got the whole aspect of gene editing with the Prather group editing out the CD163 gene, making pigs that are completely resistant to PRRS infection. That's very exciting.

"Whether that comes to market is another big question that the regulators and industry will have to struggle with over the next couple of years.

"More recently, what we're involved with is more general disease resilience and we have set up a project in Quebec to look at resilience to many diseases and that's through a natural challenge model system."

Dr Harding says scientists will continue their work so stay tuned.

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