Scientists Examine Pig Gut Microbiome to Identify Microbes that Benefit Health and Productivity

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Farmscape for August 25, 2021

Full Interview 11:01 Listen

Scientists working on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc are examining the microbial populations of the gut of the pig in an effort to identify those microbes that benefit health and productivity. A multi-institutional team of scientists working in partnership with Swine Innovation Porc is examining the microbial population of the gut of the pig to characterise the core microbes associated with pig health.
Dr. Ben Willing, an Associate Professor with the University of Alberta and Canada Research Chair in Microbiology of Nutrigenomics, explains the goal is to identify the normal microbiota of the pig and those microbes associated with better performance.

Clip-Dr. Ben Willing-University of Alberta:
We recognise that the microbiome is important for health of an animal. Whether that’s related to providing nutrients by metabolising things that the animal can’t itself as well as to support immune development of the animal and to outcompete pathogens, so keep an animal healthy.
You put all those things together, we know that microbes ultimately can make an animal healthier but we also know they can make them less healthy and less productive, so we’re trying to identify what microbes make an animal healthier. It’s because of research in many different spaces, including human research and research that’s done in mice even, that’s really shown that microbes are key drivers of health.
There’s some really great work in mice saying that, if you take a microbiome of a wild mouse and you put it into a lab mouse, when you now infect that mouse, it really survives much better than when it just has a lab mouse microbiome. That kind of idea says that we can do the same thing for pigs and, as we move away from antibiotic use, we need to have strategies to make those pigs as healthy as possible.

Dr. Willing says this work is intended primarily to generate foundational knowledge and hopefully identify beneficial microbes that can be targeted so we can build this technology.

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