Transgenic Goats' Milk Helps Fend off E. coli-related Illness in Pigs

April 22, 2008

Pigs fed goats' milk that was genetically modified to carry an important antibacterial enzyme found in human breast milk showed signs of better resisting attack by common E. coli bacteria than did pigs fed unmodified goats' milk without the human enzyme, report researchers at the University of California, Davis.

The findings, published in the May issue of the Journal of Nutrition, provide evidence that milk carrying high levels of the human lysozyme enzyme -- produced by genetically modified, or transgenic, goats -- may improve the gastrointestinal health of pigs and other animals that consume the milk. Pigs were used in this study because they have digestive systems that are similar to those of humans.

"These results demonstrate that biotechnology can be used to improve the healthfulness of the milk of dairy animals by introducing beneficial properties of human milk," said James Murray, who led the study with animal scientist Elizabeth Maga.

"We are hopeful that milk with similar benefits one day will be available to protect infants and children against diarrheal illnesses, which every year kill millions of children around the world," Maga said.

The enzyme lysozyme is found in the tears, saliva and milk of all mammals. While lysozyme is found at high levels in human breast milk, goats' milk contains only 0.06 percent as much lysozyme as does human milk. In this study, the transgenic goats produced milk with 67 percent as much lysozyme as human milk.

Lysozyme inhibits the growth of bacteria by destroying the bacterial cell wall, causing the cell contents to leak out. Because lysozyme limits the growth of bacteria that cause intestinal infections and diarrhea, and encourages the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria, it is considered one of the main human-milk components that contribute to the health of breast-fed infants.

In this study, the researchers gave the young pigs solid feed and pasteurized, lysozyme-rich milk produced by transgenic dairy goats. A control group of young pigs received solid feed and pasteurized regular, non-transgenic goats' milk that did not have human lysozyme.

Half of the pigs were also given a dose of enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (E. coli), a common bacterial strain known to cause gastrointestinal illness. During the study, the researchers found that the pigs fed the lysozyme-rich milk from transgenic goats had significantly lower levels of coliform bacteria, including E. coli, in their small intestines, than did the control group of pigs fed regular goats' milk.

Furthermore, the pigs receiving the lysozyme-rich milk and the pigs in the control group demonstrated normal weight gain, growth and blood composition.

These results substantiated findings from a similar 2006 study by the researchers, which investigated the impact of transgenic goats' milk with human lysozyme on young goats and pigs.

The researchers note that further studies are needed to more completely characterize and understand the full impact of transgenic lysozyme-rich goats' milk on young pigs' intestinal bacteria, including potential positive effects on beneficial bacteria.

Source: UC Davis

Explore further: Piglets in mazes provide insights into human cognitive development

Related Stories

Piglets in mazes provide insights into human cognitive development

July 25, 2012
Events that take place early in life almost certainly have consequences for later cognitive development. Establishing the connections is difficult, however, because human infants cannot be used as laboratory subjects.

Goats' milk with antimicrobial lysozyme speeds recovery from diarrhea

March 13, 2013
Milk from goats that were genetically modified to produce higher levels of a human antimicrobial protein has proved effective in treating diarrhea in young pigs, demonstrating the potential for food products from transgenic ...

New study maps hotspots of human-animal infectious diseases and emerging disease outbreaks

July 4, 2012
A new global study mapping human-animal diseases like tuberculosis (TB) and Rift Valley fever finds that an "unlucky" 13 zoonoses are responsible for 2.4 billion cases of human illness and 2.2 million deaths per year. The ...

Guinea pigs can be source of serious strep infection

December 16, 2014
(HealthDay)—In the world of infectious diseases, one worrisome phenomenon is when an illness that originated in animals jumps over into people.

Ongoing research analyzes formulas, mother's milk

January 20, 2012
Soy-based baby formula nourishes millions of America's infants. Now, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded scientist Jin-Ran Chen is taking a close look at the effects that soy formula, cow's-milk formula, and mother's ...

Pig stomach mucins are effective as anti-viral agents for consumer products

April 25, 2012
Mucus often elicits strong revulsion, but to MIT biological engineer Katharina Ribbeck, it is a fascinating material. 

Recommended for you

Expert: Be concerned about how apps collect, share health data

October 20, 2017
As of 2016 there were more than 165,000 health and wellness apps available though the Apple App Store alone. According to Rice University medical media expert Kirsten Ostherr, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates ...

More teens than ever aren't getting enough sleep

October 19, 2017
If you're a young person who can't seem to get enough sleep, you're not alone: A new study led by San Diego State University Professor of Psychology Jean Twenge finds that adolescents today are sleeping fewer hours per night ...

Across Asia, liver cancer is linked to herbal remedies: study

October 18, 2017
Researchers have uncovered widespread evidence of a link between traditional Chinese herbal remedies and liver cancer across Asia, a study said Wednesday.

Eating better throughout adult years improves physical fitness in old age, suggests study

October 18, 2017
People who have a healthier diet throughout their adult lives are more likely to be stronger and fitter in older age than those who don't, according to a new study led by the University of Southampton.

Global calcium consumption appears low, especially in Asia

October 18, 2017
Daily calcium intake among adults appears to vary quite widely around the world in distinct regional patterns, according to a new systematic review of research data ahead of World Osteoporosis Day on Friday, Oct. 20.

New study: Nearly half of US medical care comes from emergency rooms

October 17, 2017
Nearly half of all US medical care is delivered by emergency departments, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM). And in recent years, the percentage of care delivered ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.