Researchers in London are working on an idea to grow substances in tobacco plants, then use the plants as feed additives to eliminate threats such as Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus and E.coli 0105:H7.
The work began with Chris Hall when he was at the University of Guelph. He moved to PlantForm Corporation in London where the company is collaborating with researchers at the federal agriculture department’s research station there and with the University of Western Ontario.
Dr. Rima Menassa is a research scientist in plant biotechnology at the agriculture department and she developed plant-based antibodies that worked to reduce the shedding of E.coli 0157:H7 in cattle nearing delivery to meat-packing plants.
Unfortunately, the industry did not offer enough of a premium to entice farmers to use the technology.
But Menassa is persisting, starting with new genetically-engineered tobacco plants and trials with mice. Then she plans to try it on pigs which might work better than cattle because cattle digest in two stages, first a rumen, then a standard digestive system.
With pigs digestion is a faster and simpler and therefore the anti-E.coli 0157:H7 results might be better.
The team is also working on a vaccine for Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) which is deadly to young pigs.
The plan is to vaccinate pregnant sows so they will pass immunity to their piglets.