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Veterinary medicine researchers publish in journal Frontiers of Microbiology

Friday, Aug. 10, 2018


MANHATTAN — Kansas State University researchers have uncovered a novel benefit from a procedure called fecal microbiota transplantation, which is the process of transplanting fecal microbiota from a healthy individual into an individual suffering from certain diseases.

In research at Kansas State University, fecal microbiota from healthy older pigs was transplanted into young pigs.

Lead principal investigator Megan Niederwerder, assistant professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and her team recently published their findings, "Fecal Microbiota Transplantation is Associated With Reduced Morbidity and Mortality in Porcine Circovirus Associated Disease," in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.

According to Niederwerder, widespread medical research in recent years has emphasized the impact of the gut microbiome on the general health of both humans and animals.

"Our research is novel in the use of fecal microbiota transplantation as a preventative medicine tool in pigs," Niederwerder said. "Typically, in human medicine, fecal transplants are used to treat gastrointestinal diseases such as recurrent Clostridium difficile infection, but is never used prophylactically prior to diagnosis or before the onset of clinical signs."

Kansas State University researchers are seeing a link between prophylactic fecal transplantation and the prevention of clinical signs associated with viral respiratory disease in pigs.

"This study broadens the potential application of fecal transplantation with regards to timing as well as disease type," Niederwerder said. "It emphasizes the important relationship between gut health and overall health throughout the body."

Niederwerder said that the two viruses examined in their research — porcine circovirus type 2 and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus — are two of the most widespread and economically devastating pathogens in pigs worldwide. These viruses have caused billions of dollars in losses to the swine industry.

In the study, pigs treated with fecal microbiota transplantation showed fewer clinical signs of porcine circovirus associated disease, which was evidenced by a significant reduction in morbidity and mortality in transplanted pigs, along with increased antibody levels.

The researchers would like to expand this work and learn the mechanisms of how fecal microbiota transplantation may have disease-prevention benefits. Ultimately, Niederwerder wants this new research to lead to alternative tools and prevention strategies for disease control of these two viruses in the future.

"Future research will help us better understand these mechanisms and how large-scale microbiome modulation could be adapted to increase the health of herds that are endemic for these viruses in the field," Niederwerder said.

Co-authors from Kansas State University include Laura Constance, a concurrent Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student and doctoral student in pathobiology; Bob Rowland, professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology; Maureen Sheahan, microbiologist; Richard Hesse, professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology and director of diagnostic virology; and Giselle Cino, assistant professor of anatomic pathology. Other collaborators are from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln and Abilene Animal Hospital in Kansas.


Megan Niederwerder


College of Veterinary Medicine


Download the following photo.

Megan Nierderwerder

Megan Niederwerder

Written by

Joe Montgomery