APIAM Animal Health, in collaboration with APRIL and Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute, are pleased to provide the Australian pig industry access to lawsonia intracellularis quantitative polymerase chain reaction testing. The diagnostic qPCR test provides more precise detection of lawsonia intracelluaris compared to existing diagnostic methods and by doing so provides opportunity for improved production outcomes.
Lawsonia intracelluaris is a bacterium that causes disease within the gut of pigs, commonly referred to as ileitis. Ileitis is present in most Australian pig herds and is commonly seen in grower and finisher pigs. Ileitis can present as an acute disease, characterised by bloody diarrhoea and sudden death or a more chronic form affecting growth and performance.
Many farms contain sub-clinically affected pigs that don’t necessarily show symptoms, with only a small proportion of pigs showing clinical signs of ileitis such as scouring. Pigs clinically and sub-clinically affected by ileitis show reduced weight gain, poor feed efficiency and increased days to slaughter, which can significantly increase the cost of production. Clinical disease is obvious to detect and can be controlled with vaccination, medications and good hygiene and management practices, but the absence of scouring in sub-clinically affected pigs means producers may not actually be aware of any lawsonia related production losses.
The lawsonia qPCR test measures the amount of lawsonia cell numbers within pooled faecal samples. Lawsonia numbers have been standardised and correlate to the level of clinical infection and by doing so can distinguish between subclinical and clinical infection.
Case studies conducted by Apiam Animal Health have shown that subclinical ileitis can be present in herds that have an existing control program for ileitis. In these cases, lawsonia qPCR testing has helped to pinpoint risk periods of infection and subsequently refine control programs to alleviate subclinical disease and production losses. The test is also being used as a surveillance tool for l intracellularis in high health farms with minimal antibiotic usage, as well as a tool to verify changes in health control programs, which have been effective in reducing clinical and subclinical ileitis.
Gold standard testing protocols involved testing pooled faecal samples at 2-3 week age intervals from wean to finish. If you are concerned about ileitis in your herd, it is advised that you talk to your vet and determine a suitable lawsonia surveillance and diagnostic program. Samples can be submitted directly to ACE Laboratory Services – visit acelabservices.com.au – or EMAI Laboratory – visit dpi.nsw.gov.au/about-us/services/laboratory-services/veterinary