Background. Infectious disease adversely affects livestock production and animal welfare. The costs of disease are estimated as 17% of turnover in the developed world (£1.7 billion in the UK) and 35-50% in the developing world. Disease resistance is often cited as the next great challenge facing animal geneticists. It is in fact a current major challenge, with large research efforts worldwide. Yet, with some exceptions, often there has been little tangible output in terms of implemented and successful breeding programmes. There are many documented examples of genetic differences between animals in resistance to specific diseases or tolerance of infection. Examples exist in all major domestic species, and a summary is given in the appendix for chickens, cattle, pigs and sheep [most are reported in Axford et al. (2000) and OIE (1998)]. From this list we can draw two tentative conclusions: (1) wherever a disease is studied with sufficient detail, genetic differences between animals in resistance are usually found and, hence, (2) there are likely to be many more examples of genetic differences between host animals in disease resistance. This indicates that there is an excellent foundation upon which to base selection for disease resistance, although selection is but one of several ways in which genetics can be used to help control disease problems. The more generic term of genetic management of disease problems will be used to describe the use of genetics or selection to help control diseases. This paper critically evaluates the role of genetic management strategies in controlling disease.
Proceedings of the World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production, Volume 2002. Session 13, , 13.01, 2002
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