Agricultural research project: Joined forces ...
Agricultural research project

Joined forces to tackle antimicrobial resistance in livestock

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According to the WHO, antimicrobial resistance could become the third leading cause of death in 30 years.
According to the WHO, antimicrobial resistance could become the third leading cause of death in 30 years.

DENMARK, Hellerup. Researchers from universities in Denmark, the United States and the Netherlands have joined forces in the project PIG-PARADIGM. The scientists aim to reduce the need for antibiotic use in pig production – a major consumer of antibiotics.

The scientists will be collecting data on how to improve intestinal resilience in developing piglets to advance knowledge on how to prevent bacterial infections and reduce the need for antimicrobial use. The foundation by Danish pharma company Novo Nordisk will be funding the project with around EUR 20 million.


As the Novo Nordisk Foundation stated in a press release, new approaches to prevent common infections in agriculture have the potential to reduce the need for antibiotics and reduce the spread of antibiotic resistance. The current overuse of antibiotics has led to bacteria developing resistance and thus creating a lack of antibiotic efficacy and, in some cases, even a complete lack of therapeutic options to treat bacterial infections.

“In PIG-PARADIGM, we will gather knowledge about how to increase the pigs’ natural defences and immunity in the gut. If this can be improved, the incidence of diarrhoeal diseases can be reduced and thus the need for antibiotics,” says the grant recipient, Charlotte Lauridsen, Professor and Head of the Department of Animal Science at Aarhus University.

Antibiotics are designed to kill or reduce the growth of the bacteria that make pigs sick, but they can also eliminate the natural intestinal microbiome, which is important for the development of immunity in early life. In PIG-PARADIGM, the researchers will investigate how members of the intestinal microbiome, including bacteria, fungi, archaea and viruses, interact and whether changes in dietary composition or the environment can affect the intestinal microbiome that fewer antibiotics are required and thereby that microbial resistance is avoided.

International collaboration and wide-ranging interest

Extensive data collected from studying pigs will be analysed in detail by researchers in Denmark (Aarhus University, University of Copenhagen and Aalborg University) and internationally (University of California, Davis in the United States and Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands). The collaboration across institutions and borders will bring together the necessary expertise, technologies and animal studies to find innovative solutions to the problem.

“Through interdisciplinary research supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation, we are positioned to decode the complexities of the digestive tract which have thus far eluded researchers,” said Maria Marco, Professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at UC Davis, who will be leading the research to understand how pig diets can be improved.

Hauke Smidt, Personal Chair at the Laboratory of Microbiology and Scientific Director of the UNLOCK Research Infrastructure, Wageningen University & Research, will lead efforts toward understanding the processes driving the early assembly and functioning of the intestinal microbiome and its interactions with the host. Smidt said that “this exciting project with its unique combination of expertise opens up entirely new perspectives for the understanding of the interactions of the developing pig, its diet and its intestinal microbiome, and to turn that knowledge into new strategies for healthier pigs.”

Project information

The project is called Preventing Infection in the Gut of developing Piglets – and thus Antimicrobial Resistance – by disentAngling the interface of DIet, the host and the Gastrointestinal Microbiome (PIG-PARADIGM). The project will be ending in 2027 and is funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation with DKK 150 million (over EUR 20 million). The five key collaborators in the project are Aarhus University, the University of Copenhagen, Aalborg University, the University of California, Davis in the United States and Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands.

Source: Novo Nordisk Foundation

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