Development of a multidisciplinary platform for research and services in relation to gut health: long-lasting optimization of gut healty by lowering the amount of crude protein in the diet of sows and their piglets.

Project Details


Main research question/goal
The BIGDARM project is the start of a new multidisciplinary platform for gut health research in pigs. Through this analytical platform we want to create the possibility to investigate the possible effects of feeding strategies or feed components or additives at different levels. The aim is to be able to unravel the deeper mechanisms. As a result of this approach, ILVO research and services for companies can attain a new dimension. The gut microbiome plays a central role in many issues of agricultural and food research, such as anti-, pro- and prebiotics. Since the ban on the systematic usage of antibiotics as growth promotors in pig husbandry, as well as the evolution to a production with less antibiotic use, the focus has been on the improvement of gut health. It is known that excessive antibiotic usage leads to antimicrobial resistance. Unraveling of the gut microbiome is promising in this respect because it deals with the conditions leading to selection of antimicrobial resistance, but furthermore it also links to metabolism and immunity of the host and as consequence to its health status. The gut microbiome can be differentially influenced through the diet. Not well adapted diets for people or animals can lead to dysbiosis in the gut with health consequences later in life.

Research approach
A central aspect of this project is the fusion, development and implementation of complementary expertises. On the long term, an analytical platform will be created between Gembloux Agro-BioTech and ILVO, to get a critical mass on knowledge about gut health. Based on this platform, a multidisciplinary knowledge pool on animal level is created, constituting of metagenomics on the gut microbiota, (animal and bacterial) metabolomics, and animal epigenetics in combination with the classical animal performance characteristics.

The first (short term) aim is to determine at the level of animal health and the metabolic/functional level: 1) how a maternal diet of the sow with a lowered crude protein content, affects the gut and metabolism of its piglets on the longer term (slaughter age); 2) which role the gut microbiota plays in this; 3) to which extent a mismatch occurs when a diet rich in proteins is given later in life, and again the role of the gut microbiota.

We expect as first result of this GUT HEALTH research platform more insight in the effect of a diet with lowered crude protein level in the feed of the sows and piglets on animal performance, health and N-excretion of the pigs. This is important for the problem of reduction of the use of antibiotics as well as of the reduction of the ammonia excretion through manure. For research and services, the functional and analytical platform will become important to unravel different aspects of gut health. The project likely will result in a new kind of scientific publications, presentations and a PhD. Finally, it is the intention to open up the gut health platform on ILVO level to all interested researchers.
Effective start/end date1/12/17 → …

Flemish Discipline list

  • Microbiomes
  • Transcriptomics
  • Agricultural animal nutrition
  • Metabolomics