The cells lining cattle’s digestive tracts have two seemingly contradictory functions: they need to absorb nutrients while also acting as a barrier to prevent disease causing organisms from entering the bloodstream.
Nutrient absorption has not been studied in great detail in ruminants, and barrier function even less so. The interplay between these two functions also raises the possibility that nutritional disruptions may also affect how well the gut can act as a barrier to pathogens.
Research currently underway, funded by the National Check-off and Canada’s second Beef Science Cluster, is working to better understand the interplay between the absorptive and barrier functions of the ruminant digestive tract. This will help to identify opportunities to improve feed conversion efficiency, as well as a better understanding of diseases that are believed to result from pathogen movement across the digestive system (including laminitis, acute interstitial pneumonia, and general systemic inflammation).
To learn more about this research in progress, see the fact sheet: http://www.beefresearch.ca/factsheet.cfm/improving-the-barrier-function-of-the-gut-to-prevent-disease-133
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