PIG-PARADIGM project aims to reduce the need for antibiotics

Researchers from universities in Denmark, the United States and the Netherlands are collaborating on a project to improve intestinal resilience in developing piglets, with the aim of advancing knowledge on how to prevent bacterial infections and reducing the need for antimicrobials.

The 5-year project, called Preventing Infection in the Gut of developing Piglets – and thus Antimicrobial Resistance – by disentAngling the interface of DIet, the host and the Gastrointestinal Microbiome (PIG-PARADIGM), is being funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation with a grant of DKK 150 million (€20.1 million). The five key collaborators in the project are Aarhus University, the University of Copenhagen, Aalborg University, the University of California, Davis and Wageningen University & Research.

Pigs develop a complex intestinal microbiome shortly after birth. However, many piglets get diarrhoea at weaning when they are separated from the sow and adapt to the challenge of a new environment and a new diet. At this time piglets become vulnerable to enteric infections which require the use of antibiotics to prevent disease transmission, and the suffering and death of piglets.

“In PIG-PARADIGM, we will gather knowledge about how to increase the pigs’ natural defences and immunity in the gut. If this can be improved, the incidence of diarrhoeal diseases can be reduced and thus the need for antibiotics,” said grant recipient, Charlotte Lauridsen, Professor and Head of the Department of Animal Science at Aarhus University.

Antibiotics are designed to kill or reduce the growth of the bacteria that make pigs sick, but they can also eliminate the natural intestinal microbiome, which is important for development of immunity in early life. In PIG-PARADIGM, the researchers will investigate how members of the intestinal microbiome, including bacteria, fungi, archaea and viruses, interact and whether changes in dietary composition or the environment can affect the intestinal microbiome so that less antibiotics are required.

Maria Marco, Professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at University of California, Davis, will be leading the research to understanding how pig diets can be improved.

Hauke Smidt, Personal Chair at the Laboratory of Microbiology and Scientific Director of the UNLOCK Research Infrastructure, Wageningen University & Research, will lead efforts towards understanding the processes driving early assembly and functioning of the intestinal microbiome and its interactions with the host.

Associate Professor Mani Arumugam from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research (CBMR) at the University of Copenhagen, is responsible for leading the data integration.

Merete Fredholm, Professor of Animal Genetics, Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, University of Copenhagen, will be leading the research clarifying the individual and combined impact of the pig host factors and the microbiome on intestinal and systemic health.

Key companies will be invited to join PIG-PARADIGM and use the researchers’ new knowledge in their daily work and provide the project with real-world data.

[SOURCE: Novo Nordisk Foundation]