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Ben Williams

Knowledge Transfer Senior Manager

AHDB Pork Knowledge Exchange


Email Ben

T: work 024 7647 8623


Home \ Research & Innovation \ Research \ Production Efficiency \ Gutwean

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. 

Further information

Download Thesis  - Characterisation of the Gut Mucosa-Adherent Microbiota: Environmental Influences and Contributions to Immune Development