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article imageAntibody rich milk protects piglets

By Tim Sandle     May 27, 2014 in Science
Antibodies against parasites are transferred via the sow’s very first milk to the piglets immediately after birth. Based on this, researchers are looking at ways to increase the level of these antibodies in sows to boost the health of piglets.
The research has shown that the mother passes on a level of immunity to her young. Piglets from infected sows suffer less from the infection than piglets from non-infected sows.
The research also found that if the mothers are given antibiotics, then the offspring tend to be healthier. Overall offspring from dosed mothers had less severe diarrhea or no diarrhea at all. Furthermore, piglets that became ill recovered faster and excreted fewer parasites.
To show this, researchers exposed pregnant sows to infectious stages of the parasite Cystoisospora suis for two weeks. Oocysts as the primarily infectious stage stick to the floor and other objects in the farrowing barns. Piglets ingest them and the parasite colonizes the gut, attacking the mucous membrane. The parasites multiply in the body before being excreted and the cycle starts again.
Cystoisospora suis can survive in pigsties for a number of months and is very hard to kill. Sows also ingest the parasite, but due to age resistance they are not affected by this parasite the same way that piglets are.
The research is considered important since increasing the health and life expectancy of piglets is important to the farming economies of many countries.
The research has been published in the journal Veterinary Parasitology, in a paper titled “Superinfection of sows with Cystoisospora suis ante partum leads to a milder course of cystoisosporosis in suckling piglets”.
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