Project Snapshot

Prevention of Transmission Pillar

Reducing Antimicrobial Use by Selecting for Animals More Resilient to Infectious Disease  

Project Key Words: Host Animal, Microbiota, Genetics, Immunity, Resilience

Principal Investigator: Graham Plastow, PhD

Co-Investigator(s): Michael Dyck, PhD; Paul Stothard, PhD; Ben Willing, PhD; Leluo Guan, PhD; Tim  McAllister,PhD; Trevor Alexander, PhD 

Project Theme: Innovation and Commercialization

The Aim

Animals show variation in susceptibility to specific diseases. This variation could potentially be targeted to select for animals that are more resilient to infection. This project aims to identify methods of identifying resilient animals.

Why is This Important?

More resilient animals are able to continue to grow or produce and require fewer antimicrobial treatments to reach market weight or to produce eggs and milk. The selection of more resilient animals may improve animal health and welfare, while maintaining performance and reducing antimicrobial use. It has the potential to increase the sustainability of livestock agriculture in Canada.


  1. New tools to identify resilient animals for use in the selection or management of livestock to help reduce AMU
  2. New knowledge of disease resilience mechanisms
  3. Microbial populations that support resilience and can be targeted as probiotics

Research Question

  1. Can disease resilience be predicted in healthy animals from new phenotypes?
  2. How to apply these phenotypes to develop selection tools? (e.g. genomic selection)
  3. Can tools be developed to improve the management of susceptible animals? (e.g. targeted treatment of individuals vs. the population)

Our Approach

  1. A natural disease challenge model for pigs will be used to mimic commercial disease exposure. Samples and phenotypes are collected to identify and predict resilient animals in high health units.
  2. High throughput omics tools will be used to study variation in susceptibility to disease. Case control studies of field samples will be used, e.g. for Bovine Respiratory Disease.
  3. Analysis of omics data will be done to determine associations of disease response (resilience vs susceptibility) with the potential to identify performance outcomes in young animals.


Leveraged Sources of Support

  • MIF- Funds
  • PigGen Canada
  • Beef Cattle Research Council
  • UofA, UofC and AAFC - Infrastructure

Knowledge & Technology: Exchange and Exploitation

  • Identification of new tools for the management of groups and individuals based on their genetics.
  • Validate tools and develop operating procedures for adoption by industry.

Highly Qualified Personnel

  • 1 Research Assistant (project manager) to coordinate and link across individual projects
  • 1 Other HQP trained within the associated projects (e.g. 2 PhDs currently, 2 Post-doctoral fellows)