Growth and Development Symposium: promoting healthier humans through healthier livestock: animal agriculture enters the metagenomics era

J Anim Sci. 2011 Mar;89(3):835-44. doi: 10.2527/jas.2010-3392. Epub 2010 Oct 8.


The priorities of public health and agricultural sciences intersect through a shared objective to foster better human health. Enhancements in food quality and reductions in the environmental effects of modern agriculture represent 2 distinct paths through which animal sciences can contribute to the cause of public health. Recent developments in the study of human-associated microbial communities (microbiotas), notably in association with disease, indicate that better understanding of the microbial ecology of livestock can contribute to achieving the goals of better foods and a cleaner environment. Culture-independent microbiological technologies now permit comprehensive study of complex microbial communities in their natural environments. Microbiotas associated with both humans and animals provide myriad beneficial services to their hosts that, if lost or diminished, could compromise host health. Dysfunctional microbial communities have been noted in several human conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, and antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Examination of the mechanisms by which the human microbiota influences health and disease susceptibility can inform similar studies of host-microbe function in the animal sciences. Insights gained from human studies indicate strategies to raise not only healthier livestock, through selective manipulation of microbial communities, but also healthier humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / trends*
  • Animals
  • Ecosystem
  • Environment
  • Food / standards*
  • Food Safety
  • Humans
  • Livestock / genetics*
  • Nutritive Value
  • Public Health*