Application of Glycomics to Enhance Resilience Against Bovine Respiratory Disease

Project Title

Application of Glycomics to Enhance Resilience Against Bovine Respiratory Disease


Trevor Alexander (AAFC Lethbridge)

Wade Abbott, Nilusha Malmuthuge (AAFC Lethbridge), Lara Mahal (University of Alberta), Greta Reintjes (Max-Planck Institute-University of Bremen), Wesley F. Zandberg (University of British Columbia), Tim Olchowy, and Paul Gordon (University of Calgary)

Status Project Code
In progress. Results expected in March, 2028 ANH.26.21C


Mucus is an important part of the immune system – it helps separate microbes from the surface of the respiratory tract. Sialic acid helps hold mucus together and resists colonization by invading bacteria. Some BRD bacteria produce sialidase, which breaks down sialic acid. This helps feed the pathogens as they invade. Mucus also contains branched carbohydrates called glycans. When glycans are bound by proteins called lectins, different parts of the immune system are switched on or off. Changes in glycans and lectins may be associated with different stages of disease processes and could be useful biomarkers for infection or disease progression.


  • identify changes in glycosylation throughout BRD progression,
  • analyze the respiratory tract glycomics of cattle and the relationship to feedlot BRD risk categorization (days on feed, low risk, high risk, sick, or dead) and infection severity, and
  • characterize the modifications of mucus glycans by BRD pathogens.

What They Will Do

These researchers will use a variety of respiratory tract samples collected from existing projects and those collected in ANH.16.21C (Understanding the molecular epidemiology and transmission of antimicrobial resistance in bovine respiratory disease pathogens to improve the precision and reduce the use of antimicrobials in beef production), to identify microbial genes that code for enzymes that may affect respiratory glycans. They will see whether glycosylation states change as cattle spend more time in the feedlot, as BRD progresses, and in different degrees of BRD severity.

Lab studies will incubate BRD pathogens with bovine mucus and tracheal explants to see whether microbial enzyme genes they found earlier are related to mucus metabolism. This information will identify whether carbohydrate active enzyme (CAZyme) inhibitors are worth pursuing as potential non-antibiotic BRD treatments.


New technologies that allow researchers to better understand microbes, gene expression and animal-microbe interactions may help lead to new ways to diagnose, prevent, or treat BRD that require less antibiotic use.