What can we expect from a better understanding of the microbiota in pigs?
The intestinal microbiota has many functions that are interesting to study in terms of the traits we are looking for in pigs. For example, the intestinal microbiota can influence food digestion. It also has functions linked to the maturation of the immune system; more specifically, immune defences against various pathogens. A new function has also been discovered, linked to the intestine-microbiota-brain axis: specific states of anxiety could be linked to different compositions of the intestinal microbiota. In pigs, these functions show us that the microbiota is an important source of information with regard to objectives linked to sustainability, resilience and robustness, but also to the maintenance of acquired performances such as feed efficiency
What are the initial results? Have links been demonstrated between microbiota, robustness and immunity in pigs?
The initial results obtained in pigs show associations between the composition of the intestinal microbiota and production parameters. This is the case, for example, with growth: we have also been able to show that there are at least two enterotypes in this species, with one enterotype dominated by the Prevotella genus, more favourable to growth than another enterotype, dominated by the Ruminococus genus. These results obviously need to be confirmed in other populations.
These results also show that there are possible associations between variations in the composition of the intestinal microbiota and immune response parameters. This suggests that the microbiota is indeed involved at a major point of interest: that of robustness and resistance to disease.
We recently published an initial catalogue of intestinal microbiota genes. This information will enable us to exhaustively characterise the microbial content of each individual's microbiota. The aim is to move towards information of a more functional nature than the simple sequencing methods currently used. This information will be more phenotypic than that already characterised.
In conclusion, what can be said about current research into intestinal microbiota in pigs?
Current research into intestinal microbiota should enable us to identify favourable microbiota for robustness and reduce the use of antibiotics, a major issue for pig production.
Alongside INRA's research, Groupe TECHNA is also developing its expertise in microbiota: experts from the company are carrying out research projects in collaboration with private and/or public bodies. One of our main objectives is to identify the impact of parents on piglet microbiota and the capacity for transfer via feeding strategies. If you would like more information on this subject, please contact our experts!