Researchers have demonstrated that differences in pig gut microbiome will influence a pig’s response to a PRRS or PCV2 vaccine
By Jackie Clark
Researchers at Kansas State University are investigating the link between pig gut microbiome and vaccine efficacy against porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) and porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2).
“The historical research that we’ve done has been identifying the gut microbes that were associated with improved outcomes after viral infection,” Dr. Megan Niederwerder, assistant professor in the department of diagnostic medicine/pathobiology in the K-State College of Veterinary medicine, told Farms.com. “We have really focused on looking at the gut microbiome impact on respiratory disease outcome, looking at pathogen response.”
This experiment “is the first time we looked at the vaccine response,” she explained. “It was really fascinating to understand how we could utilize the gut microbes not only for response to pathogens, but potentially to improve response to vaccines as well.”
Veterinarians and producers “have vaccines that are widely implemented to try to reduce the effects of PRRS in positive herds. But they’re not perfect. Sometimes they don’t protect against broad or emerging strains, they can cause a detrimental effect to the pig’s weight gain if they are not exposed to a PRRS virus,” Niederwerder explained. She wanted to find out if “we use the gut microbes to improve the response to those commercially available vaccines that we already have.”
Understanding and characterizing the gut microbiome is complex.
“The gut microbiome has bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi, so it has a lot of different species and types of organisms,” Niederwerder explained. “In a lot of the microbiome research the identification of microbes is focused on bacteria. We try to look at all the different microbes.”
The scientists “look at the sequences that are picked up in the feces of the animal,” she added. They observed “differences where a high performing pig has more microbes in a specific family, but other times, which is really interesting when we detect it, there’s a single species that seems to be beneficial.”
Her research found “that there’s a divergence with regards to pigs weight gain after they were exposed to the vaccine and the challenge. In some pigs the vaccine was much more efficacious to improve weight gain or reduce the clinical signs of PRRS which of course can include weight loss,” she explained.
Using that information, “can we change the gut microbes in the pigs in the weaning and nursery period so that when we do vaccinate, we can give them a better chance of having that improved response?” Niederwerder asked.
To answer that question, her team is working to “hone in on those individual species that may provide that beneficial effect for vaccine response,” she explained. “Then, what I would envision is a microbiome therapeutic that may be able to augment or increase that vaccine response in those herds that we know are going to be vaccinated.”
To reach that point “we need some additional research, but I think that’s absolutely the goal,” she added.
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