In recent months we have seen an increase in swine dysentery
cases in the UK and frequent discussions about
what should we do. Should we eradicate or slaughter out?
dysentery strikes a herd for the first time, especially in sow herds, there is
an increase in diarrhoea, possibly a drop off in fertility and increase in
returns to oestrus and occasionally sow deaths.
This is especially the
case in outdoor herds and the early cases can be easily missed. Often there is
not the bloody diarrhoea and mucus that we associate with swine dysentery in the
growing pig. In some herds in primary breakdown though, I have seen piglets with
bloody scour, while still suckling at 2-3 weeks of age.
As the sow has no
immunity, there are no protective antibodies being produced in the milk and the
incubation period (time from infection to clinical disease) is approximately
If diarrhoea is seen in sows,
faecal samples should be sent off for identification of Brachyspira
, the casual agent. In the UK, we are fortunate as we can
confirm the infection quickly by using PCR tests on the faeces or the older
fluorescent antibody test (FAT).
Initial diagnosis of the disease can be
confirmed later by culture and identification, which can take several days. The
culture of B. hyodysenteriae
is important so that a minimum inhibitory
concentration (MIC) test can be carried out on the organism to see which
antibiotic to use.
While this is going on, it is
essential to determine how the disease got onto the farm in the first place, to
prevent it happening again.
• Have any animals, gilts or boars been bought
• Has there been swine dysentery on other parts of the farm
e.g. the finishers, especially in three-site production systems?
someone used the same lorry to transport pigs and not cleaned and disinfected
• Are there a lot of staff movements or shared equipment and a
lack of cleaning in between?
• How near is the neighbouring farm and have
they got dysentery?
Source of infection
We have had an
outbreak in the UK, brought on by the purchase of infected weaners from another
area. This source infected neighbouring farms, traced by lorry use and spread to
neighbouring outdoor breeder farms, probably by seagulls.
spread down to the nurseries and finisher units, so that in the end nine farms
were infected. Although embarrassing, it is a good idea to advise your
neighbouring farms of any problem so they can tighten up on their own
If gilts have been infected they are
probably immune when they arrive, but might still be carrying the organism. In
this case, usually the older sows break with dysentery. If the older sows are
infected and clean gilts are brought into the herd, the gilts usually go down
Especially, in chronically infected weaner producers
where the sow herd is immune, they may not see clinical disease, as they do not
have growing pigs on the farm and the disease does not usually develop before
six weeks of age in weaners.
So should one try to
eradicate the disease or slaughter out? This is a difficult question and only
one that can be assessed by the farmer and vet together. Eradication programmes
have been generally successful, especially using partial depopulation of all
growing and finishing stock. Many breeding herds these days are part of a
three-site set up, so effectively have partially depopulated.
question is, to which antimicrobial is the organism susceptible. In the EU we
only have valnemulin, tiamulin, lincomycin, tylvalosin and tylosin and usually
the former is the most active and the latter the most resistant. It is advisable
to have an MIC test carried out on the organism isolated from the farm as an
We have recently been looking at
the susceptibility (MIC) patterns of B. hyodysenteriae
tiamulin and the concentrations of the antibiotic achieved in the colon, where
the organism lives (see Figure 1
Figure 1. Tiamulin MICs against
and colon concentrations after in feed inclusion at 40,
100, 150 and 200ppm – equivalent to 2, 5, 7.5 and 10 mg/kg
with MICs upto 0.5µg/ml are inhibited by
tiamulin in the feed at 40ppm (prevention level) but you really need higher
concentrations from 150 ppm up to 200 ppm to treat and eliminate the
Adjusting feed inclusion rates
Once the MIC reaches
8 µg/ml or above then tiamulin is unlikely to be effective. The in-feed
inclusion rates need to be adjusted to ensure the right dose rate for dry and
lactating sows is achieved (possibly 5 and 2.5 times respectively). If the
isolate is resistant to all antibiotics then the best option is to depopulate
the herd, to stop the bacterium spreading to other herds and
Swine dysentery can be successfully eradicated from a breeding
herd but you need a susceptible Brachyspira
isolate and to get sufficient
medication into the pigs for long enough to eliminate the infection from the
pigs and farm environment.