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Newly funded project to investigate the use of phage to treat infections in pigs

PhageSUAS- “Improved Pig Health through the Novel Application of SynBio in Phage Therapy” is a newly funded project led by Teagasc’s Dr John Kenny, with partners at University College Cork, Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Madison-Wisconsin. Over €340,000 was awarded to the research

In excess of €340,000 was awarded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for research to be conducted in Ireland. The PhageSUAS- “Improved Pig Health through the Novel Application of SynBio in Phage Therapy” project is part of the international US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership, with a total budget of almost €1 million.

Bacterial viruses or “phages”

Bacterial viruses or “phages” are the world’s most abundant viruses. However, they only infect bacteria and are harmless to humans. As compared to antibiotics, they act with specificity, targeting only one or a few bacterial strains and leaving the remainder of the bacterial community intact. For this reason, phage treatment has long been touted as an alternative to antibiotics, particularly as we confront the ongoing threat of antimicrobial resistance.

Streptococcus suis in Pigs

Streptococcus suis is a pig pathobiont- it is almost ubiquitously present in the nasopharynx of pigs but under certain conditions can cause disease. S. suis infection is most commonly associated with a previous intestinal or respiratory infection, leading to S. suis-mediated meningitis, polyarthritis, septicaemia, pneumonia and endocarditis. As a consequence, infections are a significant international animal welfare and economic burden in the pig industry.

The Phage-SUAS project

The Phage-SUAS project aims to develop innovative and effective phage therapy solutions to specifically target S. suis in pigs. The project will use a rational design approach to generate and test combinations of phages. This design will allow these combined phages (or “phage cocktails”) to kill a wide range of infectious S. suis strains while circumventing bacterial-mediated phage resistance, a key roadblock to the use of phage therapy. Simultaneously, the project aims to develop the Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) gut symbiont Lactobacillus reuteri as next-generation probiotics to deliver antimicrobials to eradicate S. suis from the pig gastrointestinal tract.

This grant award was announced by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine alongside the launch of the 2022 Call in Agriculture under the US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership. Read the press release here

If you found this interesting you might like to check out  this Research Insights Webinar - Viruses - The Fightback and the Future

Find out more here about the Teagasc Pig Development Department

Find out more here about Food Bioscience research in Teagasc