In conventional farming, piglets are often weaned around 4 weeks of age. During this process, the piglet is subjected to environmental, physiological, and stressful factors that induce substantial changes in gastrointestinal, microbiological, and physiological homeostasis. Loss of homeostasis often results in post-weaning diarrhea (PWD), changes in epithelial architecture and reduced macronutrient digestion, especially in the small intestine. Consequently, undigested protein and carbohydrates may reach the large intestine, where saccharo-proteolytic microorganisms like E. coli can proliferate and produce protein-fermentation metabolites. Protein-fermentation metabolites and by-products can have damaging or toxic properties leading to an increase of proteolytic diarrhea and a vicious cycle of intestinal conditions. It is therefore hypothesized that protein fermentation has direct effects on PWD.
The project objective is: to investigate the relationship between protein fermentation and PWD, by identification of factors responsible for PWD, and to develop specific methods to reduce its incidence. After identification of metabolites involved, we will investigate the effects of these metabolites on performance and gut health following a three-phase interdisciplinary approach: epidemiologic, prospective, and in vitro.
Working together with Animal Nutrition, different factors and aspects of this problem will be tackled. Being situated at Host-Microbe Interactomics and the Laboratory of Microbiology, this project mainly focusses on intestinal development, immunology, microbiology, and in vitro approaches. By using a porcine derived intestinal organoid system, we investigate the mechanistic effects of these metabolites at the molecular and cellular level via an integrative –omics approach; next-gen sequencing, proteomics, and metabolomics.
Bart van der Hee (email: tel: 0317-489356), PhD candidate Host-Microbe Interactomics and Laboratory of Microbiology, Wageningen University and Research. Visiting address: Room E1205, De Elst 1, 6708 WD, Wageningen.