Using genetic markers for disease resistance to improve production under constant infection pressure

EH van der Waaij*, P Bijma, SC Bishop, JAM van Arendonk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Animals will show reduced production when exposed to a constant infection pressure unless they are fully resistant, the size of the reduction depending on the degree of resistance and the severity of infection. In this article, the use of QTL for disease resistance for improving productivity under constant infection pressure is investigated using stochastic simulation. A previously published model was used with two thresholds for resistance: a threshold below which production is not possible and a threshold above which production is not affected by the infection. Between thresholds, observed production under constant infection is a multiplicative function of underlying potential production and level of resistance. Some simplifications of reality were adopted in the model, such as no genetic correlation between potential production and resistance, the absence of influence of lack of resistance on reproductive capacity, and the availability of phenotypes in both sexes. Marker-assisted selection was incorporated by assuming a proportion of the genetic variance to be explained by the QTL, which thus is defined as a continuous trait. Phenotypes were available for production, not for resistance. The infection pressure may vary across time. Results were compared to mass selection on production under constant as well as intermittent infection pressure, where the infection pressure varied between but not within years. Selection started in a population with a very poor level of resistance. Incorporation of QTL information is valuable (i.e., the increase in observed production relative to mass selection) when a large proportion of the additive genetic variance is explained by the QTL (50% genetic variance explained) and when the heritability for resistance is low (h(R)(2) = 0.1). Under constant infection pressure, incorporating QTL information does not increase selection responses in observed production when the QTL effect explains less than 25% of the genetic variance. Under intermittent selection pressure, the use of QTL information gives a slightly greater increase in observed production in early generations, relative to mass selection on observed production, but still only when the QTL effect is large or the heritability for resistance is low. The additional advantage of incorporating QTL information is that use of (preventive) medical treatment is possible, or animals may be evaluated in uninfected environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-329
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2002


  • disease resistance
  • genetics
  • production
  • quantitative trait loci
  • selection
  • Stochastic models
  • LOCI


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