By Dr. Deb Hamernik, ASAS President
Sept. 8, 2016 – Dr. Max Rothschild gave an invited presentation, “This little piggy went to market: applications of genomics to improved health for sustainable pig production,” at the 67th Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science (EAAP) in Belfast, Ireland, held August 29 – September 2, 2016. More than 1,500 people attended the EAAP meeting.
Rothschild introduced the topic of his presentation with evidence that livestock losses due to disease, reduced productivity, and increased health costs exceed $2 billion annually in the US and $20 billion worldwide. The major viral diseases that recently have had negative impacts on pork production are PRRS, PCV2, and PEDV. In most management systems, biosecurity, sanitation, vaccination, pharmaceuticals, and antibiotics are used to control infectious diseases but genetic resistance should be considered.
A draft swine genome sequence was published in 2012 and subsequent genome-based technologies have been developed in recent years that now allow scientists to apply state-of-the-art genetics and genomics tools to better understand why some pigs are generally healthier, less susceptible to disease, and in some cases resistant to diseases. For example, evidence of genetic resistance to the PCV2 virus has been localized to a region on chromosome 7 and another region on chromosome 12. These genomic regions account for about 15% of the genetic variation associated with viral load and 15% of the genetic variation associated with decreased growth rate in PCV2 infected pigs. Candidate genes that may be responsible for regulating the immune system and growth rate are within these regions of DNA. Future approaches to combating viral diseases in pigs may include genetic/genomic selection, genotype-dependent therapies, vaccinations, or the recently developed technology of genome editing. Any combination of these approaches will contribute to sustainable pork production systems in the US and throughout the world.
Max Rothschild is CF Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture and Life Sciences and Ensminger Endowed Chair of International Agriculture in the Department of Animal Science at Iowa State University. Dr. Rothschild received the Morrison Award from ASAS in 2015.