The relation between protein fermentation and post-weaning diarrhea in pigs; using a porcine-derived intestinal organoid model


During weaning the piglet is subjected to environmental, physiological, and stressful factors. These factors induce substantial changes in gastrointestinal, microbiological, and physiological homeostasis and are usually accompanied by post-weaning diarrhea (PWD). A consequence could be changes in epithelial architecture and reduced macronutrient digestion in the small intestine. As a consequence, 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 byproducts can have damaging or toxic properties leading to an increase of proteolytic diarrhea. 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 look into the effects of these metabolites on performance and gut health, which will be studied in 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 try to answer the effects of these metabolites on molecular and cellular level. For this we use an integrative –omics approach; next-gen sequencing, proteomics, and metabolomics.


For this project, we are looking for BSc/MSc students in the field of Biology, Biotechnology, Animal Sciences, or related fields. We expect that the student has a high affinity with immunohistochemistry, molecular methods as DNA/RNA isolation and PCR, or cell culture.

Contact information:

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.