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The National Institute of Agronomic Research (INRA) and its international partners published a major study cataloguing the DNA of the intestinal gut of pork.

Pork is a major species in the global food production system and is also used as an important model animal in biomedical research. After doing the same catalogue with the intestinal microbiota of humans (2010) and of mice (2015), this is the first time a livestock animal has had its intestinal gut sequenced, opening the door to important perspectives in understanding interactions between the host pigs, their intestinal micro-biosphere and the surrounding environment. This provides major resources to livestock husbandry and to biomedical research.

The data collected allowed the researchers to identify nearly 8 million genes in the intestinal tract of pork, showing that a variety of genes were common to all pigs but that there was still significant genetic variability among individual animals. The function of the genes identified that were the most represented in the intestinal tract of the pigs were those that are linked to genetic information (replication and repair of DNA), metabolism (amino acids, carbohydrates), and circulation (membrane transport).

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Interestingly, 96% of the biological functions identified in the intestinal tracts of pork are also present in the human intestinal tract, confirming the potential of using pigs in biomedical research. Conversely, only 78% of the biological functions identified in pigs are also found in humans, suggesting that there are additional functions involved in the pig intestinal tract than those in humans. The researchers also showed that the sex, age and the individual genetic makeup of each host pig likely influences the microbiological atmosphere in the intestinal tract of pigs.

Notably, the study also provided evidence of the presence of genes that are resistant to antibiotics in all pigs, regardless of the country of origin or the dosage of antibiotics the animal received. The results confirm the usefulness of eliminating the use of antibiotics in animal production in order to reduce the risk of disseminating antibiotic resistant genes in the environment.

The gene catalogue of the intestinal tract of pigs is a major reference resource that allows to finely analyze the microbiological ecosystem of their digestive system, opening up the possibility of new research for the development of innovative strategies in agriculture and biomedical research.