There is no Science Page this week; we will return to our normal schedule next week. In the meantime, you may read our previous publications on our website.
Today, we will be talking about swine microbiome studies. Dr. Andres Gomez, expert in microbiome, who joined the University as part of the new AGREETT positions wrote an article for the National Hog Farmer about research on swine microbiome.
What does microbiome mean?
Microbiome refers to all of the microbes present in an area. For example, gut microbiome is the entire population of microorganisms (most of the time bacteria) present in the intestinal tract.
Microbes have been traditionally viewed through a lens of distrust, as pathogens affecting health. However, molecular and computational breakthroughs to study microbial diversity and function by sorting DNA sequences have presented a novel concept of an animal “flora” that acts as a friend as opposed to a foe.
Characterizing the microbiome to improve nutrition
Characterizing the specific microbes that increase or decrease in abundance upon pharmaceutical or dietary interventions is critical to determine precise dose-response relationships and to potentially reduce feed costs while achieving desired improvements in pig health and productivity.
Defining “healthy” microbiomes to identify poor-doing pigs
Regular “microbiome snapshots” along the most critical stages of pig growth (e.g., pre- and post-weaning), can be used to predict health and potential pathogen threats for disease by early identification of bacteria in slow-growing pigs or those that are at most risk of infection. This would allow producers to make early decisions on therapeutic or dietary interventions to enhance performance and health.
Enhancing the protective microbiome
The microbiome in the gut or respiratory tract is a protective layer against infectious diseases. Thus, with microbiome research, we can determine how novel feed additives and management interventions work, by either enhancing the abundance of microbes that promote health and/or displacing those that cause disease.
Microbiome beyond pork production
For instance, specialized bacteria and fungi can degrade otherwise underutilized natural resources to maximize pig productivity, while decreasing the environmental footprint. Additionally, specialized microbial communities can also mitigate the production of dangerous gases produced in manure pits.