In phase I of the HUNT One Health project, samples were also collected from livestock (cattle, pigs, sheep) and horses. While many samples came from dogs, we also received a useful selection of animals from cattle herds and slightly fewer from pigs, sheep and horses. DNA from these stool samples will be fully sequenced and ready for use by researchers in the course of 2021, what we call phase II of the project.
There is a large amount of information in these samples, and initial analyzes will focus on describing the samples with modern bioinformatic methods. Which microbial communities dominate in different species? Is there a similarity between animals from the same herds/municipality/region? If interesting microbial genes are found, our data can then be linked to existing animal health registries, and to the large amounts of available data on animal owners who are participants in HUNT4. What does exposure to the microbiome of livestock entail for human health?
Further work with livestock will depend on recruitment of the livestock owners of herds from phase I to contribute to follow-up studies of the herds. Some studies of this kind are now being planned, as a collaboration between the three owner institutions. Phase II studies of livestock will require a significantly larger collection of sample material than what has been collected so far, and are dependent on researchers applying for research funding for this. In addition to collecting feces for microbiome examinations, such projects may collect blood samples and samples for microbiome examination from e.g., saliva and skin. In parallel with HUNT One Health, a veterinary biobank is being built up at the new premises on Campus Ås. We hope that more projects will use our approach – and make research material available to other researchers.
A special topic we are interested in is how the microbiome of different organs develops in different domestic animals from birth to later in life. Domestic animals have shorter life cycles than humans and can therefore give interesting insight in the development less time. We also know that the placenta is very different between animals. While newborns have a significant immunity that is transferred from the mother during pregnancy, the communication between mother and offspring is much looser in e.g., pig and horse - while ruminants are in an intermediate position. This means that pigs and horses are more dependent on breast milk than other species. We want to look at the interaction between the microbiome and the development of the immune system - also considering the genetic material (genome) of each individual animal.
NORLEP: Norwegian livestock and pets as reservoir for zoonotic Leptospira spp.