Research partners: University of Bristol, Rowett Research Institute
Sponsors: Defra, SEERAD, AHDB Pork
Project duration: 2005-2009
Aims and objectives
To establish whether microbial colonization in early life can impact on immune competence of the developing pig.
Project goals included identification of bacterial groups/species that drive the functional maturation of the immune system and candidate molecular markers of the ‘healthy gut’.
- Animals in an outdoor environment showed a dominance of lactobacilli species, whereas animals in indoor environments were colonized by potentially harmful bacteria belonging to Clostridia and Proteobacteria
- Analysis of all gene data confirmed that the differences in microbiota between pigs reared in indoor and outdoor environments was also associated with significant difference in immune response genes
- Rearing environment, whether indoor or outdoor, has a profound impact on the type of bacteria that colonise the pig gut in early life; these effects are ‘sustainable’ and also apparent in the adult animal gut
- The outdoor reared animals had enhanced immune function and gut barrier effects
- The functional effects of the bacterial strains identified in outdoor farms may provide avenues for development of new probiotics
- Some of the genes that were observed in the outdoor pig gut may provide ‘healthy gut’ biomarkers useful for assessing new dietary interventions or new rearing regimes for young pigs.