PIG-PARADIGM study aims to reduce antibiotic use

Objective is to improve intestinal resilience in developing piglets.

January 11, 2024

3 Min Read
National Pork Board

Yanhong Liu, an associate professor of animal nutrition and a member of the CLEAR Center at University of California, Davis, is bolstering the work of the five-year-long international PIG-PARADIGM study currently underway. In addition to lending her well-regarded expertise in animal nutrition and experience gained from her work to reduce antibiotics use in swine, Liu and other faculty from UC Davis are leading a project team of postdoctoral researchers and Ph.D. candidates in nutrition, microbiology and big data analysis.

Given Liu’s research on the use of feed-based technologies to improve animal health and lower the incidence of postweaning diarrhea, she is a natural for PIG-PARADIGM, which is bringing together researchers from UC Davis and universities in Denmark and the Netherlands. The objective of the $21.2 million project is to lessen the need for antibiotics in pig production by improving intestinal resilience in developing piglets.

“If we can make pigs more resistant to enteric infection through their feed, we can avoid or reduce the use of antibiotics, the only cure once an animal becomes infected,” she said. “I’m so pleased to be part of PIG-PARADIGM with my colleagues at UC Davis and researchers in Europe. This really is an issue of global concern.”

Making animal agriculture more sustainable involves looking at environmental matters such as greenhouse gas emissions. However, it is also about helping the industry become more viable and profitable, she added. As it pertains to post-weaning diarrhea, swine farms in the United States stand to lose up to 30% of their stock annually once an animal succumbs to a bacterial infection such as E. coli.

“We need to ensure our farmers can make a living producing the food we need to feed our growing population, Liu said. “That’s an aspect of sustainability we perhaps don’t think about as often.”

Human health implications

According to organizers of PIG-PARADIGM, the study also has implications for human health. Overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture contributes to bacteria’s becoming resistant to antimicrobials. More than 700,000 people die each year from infections that are antibiotic resistant, with the World Health Organization predicting that in just 30 years, antimicrobial resistance will become the third leading cause of death worldwide.

The UC Davis team, whose share of the research funding is $3.8 million, is being led by Maria Marco, professor in the Food Science and Technology Department. Other members of the UC Davis cohort are: Senior Researchers Carolyn Slupsky, Peng Ji, Andreas Bäumler and Titus Brown; and Postdocs and Ph.D Candidates Alfredo Chavez-Arroyo, Lei Wei, Alejandra Mejia, Supatirada (Jane) Wongchanla, Sangwoo Park, Weizhang Wen, Shya Navazesh, Amara Benn, Scott Mahan, Anneliek ter Horst and Tessa Pierce Ward.

“We want to further our understanding of how to increase pigs’ natural defenses and immunity in the gut,” said Ji, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition at UC Davis. Much of his work of late has been steeped in determining how iron can make a difference in the health of piglets, the future of farming and the cleanliness of the environment.

PIG-PARADIGM is being funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation.

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