If pigs could avoid diarrhea caused by E. coli infections, life would be a lot easier for the pigs as well as thousands of pork producers. Whether this is just wishful thinking or can become reality in the pig production of the future is something that scientists from Aarhus University and the University of Southern Denmark are looking into in a new project.

Diarrhea caused by E. coli is very costly in Danish pig production. If pigs with an inbred resistance to E. coli could be selected for breeding this would have a large impact on the control of diarrhea in young pigs, says senior scientist Emøke Bendixen, leader of the new project.

The resistance to E. coli is caused by a mutation on the FUT1 gene, but there has been no strategy to include this mutation in the breeding program. The crucial issue before you can start is to look at whether the resistance to E. coli could have other significant biological side-effects on the animals.

This is what the new project will examine. The scientists will compare the pigs that carry the FUT1 mutation with pigs that do not carry the mutation for a number of different parameters. They will, for example, examine how the FUT1 gene affects the colonization of the intestines with beneficial microbes, as this colonization is crucial both for the health of the gut and for the pig’s health generally.

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Source: Aarhus University