Selection of pigs for improved coping with health and environmental challenges: breeding for resistance or tolerance?

Front Genet. 2012 Dec 14;3:281. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2012.00281. eCollection 2012.


The benefits of improved health and welfare in pigs have driven refinements in management and selection practices, one of which is the production of pig phenotypes that can maintain health and productivity by improving response against pathogens. Selection has traditionally been made for host resistance; but the alternative host defence mechanism-host tolerance-is now being considered, as breeding for disease tolerance allows maintenance of high performance across environments of increasing pathogenic load. A distinction must be made between these two mechanisms as they vary in their influence on host-pathogen interactions and pathogen evolution, and consequently on the results of breeding programs. Many pig production studies have failed to distinguish between resistance and tolerance; although a distinction may not always be possible. This article reviews current perspectives in selective breeding for disease resistance and tolerance in growing pigs, and the attendant industry implications. To assess the viability of breeding for resistance and/or tolerance for improved response to disease and other environmental challenges, we propose the use of routine farm records, instead of data measurements taken from laboratory experiments. Consequently, a number of factors need to be taken into account simultaneously for a multidimensional modeling approach. This includes not only genotype and disease variables, but also descriptors of the environment, as well as any possible interactions. It may not be feasible to record individual pathogen loads, and therefore true tolerance, on farm using routinely collected data. However, it may be estimated with group (farm) means, or other proxy measures. Although this results in a bias, this may still be useful for modeling and quantifying resistance and tolerance. We can then quantify success of selection, and this may enable us to decide whether to select for disease resistance versus disease tolerance.

Keywords: host defence strategies; pig breeding; reaction norm; resistance; tolerance.