CLEAR Center highlights latest AMR research at PIG-PARADIGM annual meeting

Recent study showed adding the probiotic Bacillus subtilis reduced severe cases of post-weaning diarrhea by as much as 5%, improved young pig growth by 20%.

June 21, 2024

3 Min Read
CLEAR Center

Reducing antimicrobial resistance in pigs is a major concern. So much so, there’s an organization dedicated solely to addressing the worldwide problem — and a yearly gathering to share research and further the cause with partnering universities including University of California Davis, Wageningen University & Research, University of Copenhagen, Aarhus University and Aalborg University.

PIG-PARADIGM, an international, cross-institutional and interdisciplinary AMR project, invited team members and associates of the CLEAR Center at UC Davis to its 2024 annual meeting, held April 30 to May 2 in the Netherlands. Approximately 12 experts from UC Davis were part of the group of 70-plus experts from the United States and the European Union intent on sharing research and findings aimed at boosting the health and wellness of swine without relying on antibiotics to do the job.

For the first time this year, PIG-PARADIGM structured its annual meeting to include a day for early-career researchers, an important step in ensuring this work continues with the next generation of scientists. "It was such a great opportunity to collaborate with researchers in the PIG-PARADIGM project, working with experts from different universities across the world to reduce antimicrobial resistance," said Supatirada (Jane) Wongchanla, a third-year PhD student at UC Davis.

The CLEAR Center and UC Davis have more than a passing interest in the topic. The center works closely with pig farmers and the National Pork Board to make swine farming more sustainable. As one of the leading agriculture schools in the world, some UC Davis researchers focus exclusively on swine. In addition to helping producers reduce the carbon footprints of their operations, these scientists are looking at ways to lower the mortality of livestock without falling back on antibiotics to solve the problem.

According to PIG-PARADIGM, it’s an effort worth making. Per the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, pork is the most widely eaten meat in the world. With that in mind, “Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is becoming one of the greatest global health threats, and the overuse and misuse of antimicrobials are accelerating the spread of AMR,” notes PIG-PARADIGM.

Joining the annual meeting from UC Davis were Maria Marco, Yanhong Liu, Peng Ji, Supatirada Jane Wongchanla, Sangwoo Park, Anneliek ter Horst, Lei Wei, Alejandra Meji-Caballero, Shya Navazesh, Alfredo Chavez-Arroyo, Scott Mahan and Ashley Chum and Kevin Ulrich from the UC Davis CLEAR Center.

The group came armed with — and ready to share and discuss — an impressive body of work. For example, Ji is studying iron levels in young pigs. More to the point, he’s looking at how unbalanced levels of the mineral might be affecting piglets’ natural ability to fight infections, including an especially pesky one caused by a pathogenic Escherichia coli bacteria … aka E. coli.

And Liu, an associate professor of animal nutrition at UC Davis and director of swine research at the CLEAR Center, recently published a promising study in the Journal of Animal Science. By adding the probiotic Bacillus subtilis to feed, Liu and her research team reduced severe cases of post-weaning diarrhea by as much as 5% and improved the growth of young pigs by as much as 20%. Furthermore, there were no observable side effects.

“Antibiotics used to be an effective course of action, but after 2017, we no longer had the option of putting medically important antibiotics in feed for growth promoting and disease prevention. That’s a right thing to combat antibiotic resistance, but unfortunately, post-weaning diarrhea is becoming a big problem for farmers’ sustainability. By supplementing feed additives, like probiotics or organic acids in nursery feed, we improved the overall gut health of the pigs we studied, which included reducing infection,” she said. “It’s very promising.”

Exploring the interaction of the host, diet and gut microbiota to prevent infection in the gut of developing piglets, these are the kinds of advancements PIG-PARADIGM wants to encourage and share. “Beyond the academic program, the meeting provided ample opportunities for networking and socializing. In-person interactions fostered meaningful connections and laid the groundwork for future collaborations."

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