Selection on resilience improves disease resistance and tolerance to infections

Mulder, H.A.; Rashidi, H.


Response to infection in animals has 2 main mechanisms: resistance (ability to control pathogen burden) and tolerance (ability to maintain performance given the pathogen burden). Selection on disease resistance and tolerance to infections seems a promising avenue to increase productivity of animals in the presence of disease infections, but it is hampered by a lack of records of pathogen burden of infected animals. Selection on resilience (ability to maintain performance regardless of pathogen burden) may, therefore, be an alternative pragmatic approach, because it does not need records of pathogen burden. Therefore, the aim of this study was to assess response to selection in resistance and tolerance when selecting on resilience compared with direct selection on resistance and tolerance. Monte Carlo simulation was used combined with selection index theory to predict responses to selection. Using EBV for resilience in the absence of records for pathogen burden resulted in favorable responses in resistance and tolerance to infections, with higher responses in tolerance than in resistance. If resistance and tolerance were unfavorably correlated, lower selection responses were obtained, especially in resistance. When the genetic correlation was very unfavorable, the selection response in tolerance became negative. Results showed that lower selection responses in resistance and tolerance were obtained when the frequency of disease outbreaks was 10% rather than 50% of the contemporary groups. The efficiency of selection on EBV for resilience compared with selection on EBV for resistance and tolerance was, however, not affected by the frequency of disease outbreaks. When records on pathogen burden were available, selection responses in resistance, tolerance, and the total breeding goal were 3 to 28%, 66 to 398%, and 2 to 11% higher, respectively, than when using the EBV for resilience, showing a clear benefit of recording pathogen burden. This study shows that selection on resilience is a pragmatic way of increasing disease resistance and tolerance to infections in the absence of records on pathogen burden, but recording pathogen burden would yield higher selection responses in resistance and tolerance.