Intestinal microbes shown to influence ASF susceptibility

Emerging research has found that piglets transplanted with African swine fever-resistant warthog faeces showed greater resilience to the ASF virus.
calendar icon 17 November 2020
clock icon 5 minute read

Along with genetic differences, other factors could be involved in the differential susceptibility to ASF observed between Eurasian suids (Sus scrofa) and African warthogs (Phacochoerus africanus).

Thus, previous results obtained at IRTA-CReSA, showed that domestic pigs raised in facilities free of specific pathogens (SPF) were extremely susceptible to highly attenuated virus strains, while these strains were harmless to pigs genetically identical breeds raised on conventional farms. With this premise in mind, the researchers worked with the hypothesis that the microbiota could play a not inconsiderable role, along with genetics, in resistance to the ASF virus, by asking the following question:

Could the African warthog microbiota contribute to resistance in domestic pigs to ASF?

There are almost no studies in pigs regarding the therapeutic or prophylactic effects of intestinal microbiota transplantation, although in human medicine faecal transplantation has been shown to be the only effective therapy for complications caused by Clostridium difficile infection, and the role that pro and prebiotics play in intestinal health is increasingly known.

Seeing that the intestinal microbiota plays an important role in maintaining intestinal homeostasis, regulating the maturation of the immune system and the functionality of innate/adaptive immune responses, a faecal microbiota transplant from African warthogs to domestic pigs would affect your susceptibility to ASF virus?

To verify this, weaned piglets were used and transplanted with faecal microbiota from African warthogs or domestic pigs, and subsequently challenged with a virulent or attenuated strain of ASF virus.

When the virulent strain (E75) was intramuscularly inoculated, no differences were observed in any of the cases. However, a very significant reduction in serum virus, nasal spread of the virus, and clinical signs were observed when pigs transplanted with African wild boar faeces were challenged intramuscularly with E75CV1, an attenuated strain of ASF virus, and compared to pigs transplanted with domestic pig faeces. "The next step will be to identify the individual components of this microbiota and characterize its protective potential against the ASF virus in order to use them as probiotics," adds Fernando Rodríguez.

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