A consideration of resistance and tolerance for ruminant nematode infections

Stephen C Bishop

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Debates on the relative merits of resistance (the ability of the host to control the parasite lifecycle) and tolerance (the net impact of infection on host performance) are often lively and unhindered by data or evidence. Resistance generally shows continuous, heritable variation but data are sparser for tolerance, the utility of which will depend upon the disease prevalence. Prevalence is a function of group mean resistance and infection pressure, which itself is influenced by mean resistance. Tolerance will have most value for endemic diseases with a high prevalence but will be of little value for low prevalence diseases. The conditionality of tolerance on infection status, and hence resistance, makes it difficult to estimate independently of resistance. Tolerance is potentially tractable for nematode infections, as the prevalence of infection is ca. 100% in animals grazing infected pasture, and infection level can be quantified by faecal egg count (FEC). Whilst individual animal phenotypes for tolerance are difficult to estimate, breeding values are estimable if related animals graze pastures of different contamination levels. Selection for resistance, i.e., FEC, provides both direct and indirect benefits from ever decreased pasture contamination and hence decreased infectious challenge. Modeling and experimental studies have shown that such reductions in pasture contamination may lead to substantially increased performance. It is proposed that selection goals addressing nematode infections should include both resistance and performance under challenging conditions. However, there may be benefits from exploiting large datasets in which sires are used across cohorts differing in infection level, to further explore tolerance. This may help to customise breeding objectives, with tolerance given greater weight in heavily parasitized environments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number168
Number of pages7
JournalFrontiers in genetics
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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