Swine dysentery cases rise


Veterinarians and farmers had not seen swine dysentery for so long that they thought it was gone for good.


Newly trained vets are now having to educate themselves about the widespread problem because it didn’t appear while they were in vet college.


“This is something that is re-emerging across North America,” Al Theede, chair of the expert technical committee that looked at the recent re-appearance of brachyspira in Canada, told the Canadian Swine Health Forum in Winnipeg.


“It’s something that many of us used to see years ago and (had) sort of disappeared from the industry but suddenly is back on the scene.”


Brachyspira is the bacteria that causes swine dysentery.


Eric Burrough of Iowa State University said the disease was so unknown to young veterinarians that infections noticed in the 2000s were sent to his Ames lab referring to “atypical diarrhea,” rather than suggesting the specific cause.


However, the disease has now been spotted in most U.S. hog production states and has been seen across Western Canada.


Brachyspira can cause a number of pig digestive problems, including diarrhea, loose stools and colitis. It is a disease family with many strains and Burrough said it is important and a challenge to identify which species of brachyspira are present in sick pigs and what is causing the problem.


Sometimes a number of species are present, so the problem-causer can’t be easily identified.


Some are relatively harmless, while others can severely damage pigs.


The disease can live in rodents and waterfowl without causing them problems, so they are a reservoir of infection for pigs that live in housing open to the outdoors, and to those in enclosed systems in which material is brought inside.


Burrough said farmers and vets who suspect they’re seeing brach-yspira in a barn need to send suspect diarrhea to a lab. 


Randomly testing pigs is less likely to find it, but a patch of bloody, mucousal diarrhea could be collected and sent for testing.


Burrough said the dysentery form of infection is easy to spot in manure. 


“(It has) a tomato soup-like look to it. You can see, maybe, a bisque,” he joked. “Once you’ve seen this in a barn, you don’t forget it.”


Many labs are working on the disease and some of the old drugs still work to control it.


Burrough said incidents of swine dysentery and other brachyspira diseases are appearing across North America, but some of the apparent rapid spread could simply be be-cause vets and farmers are now looking for it.

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