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Microbiome may unlock new ways to treat pig disease

Research into the role of bacteria, viruses and other flora in the gut may offer a new line of defense against diseases in pigs, scientists say.

The microbiome — a diverse consortium of bacteria, viruses, yeasts and archaea found inside the gastrointestinal tract — could become increasingly important in rearing health pigs, reports Pork Network.

And as the pig sector continues to face pressure to reduce its use of antibiotics, the microbiome could help the sector tackle disease in a more sustainable way.

Andrew Van Kessel, head of the Department of Animal and Poultry Science at the University of Saskatchewan, said the medical world had begun to view the microbiome as being as important to metabolism as the liver, pancreas or kidneys.

“Certainly part of the microbiome are pathogens,” he said. “We know pathogens get into our gastrointestinal tract, they become members of that microbiome and they cause us obvious problems in terms of health.

“Microbiome research is more about understanding the non-pathogens and recognizing that within this large consortia of bacteria some members are potentially good.”

In addition to increasing the supply and absorption of feed nutrients, bacteria in the gut can support the immune system limit the growth of bacterial pathogens, Van Kessel said.

The challenge now is to develop management and feeding strategies that promote the good at the expense of the bad, he added.

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Posted on May 19, 2017

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