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Quick guide to Proliferative Enteropathy (Lawsonia)

By Dr Andrew Tucker, CS Vet
What is Proliferative Enteropathy?
Proliferative Enteropathy is an infectious bacterial condition caused by Lawsonia intracellularis. Lawsonia enters the pig via the mouth and moves to the small intestine. Here it enters the epithelial cells lining the small intestine, where it then causes its damage. The damage caused results in thickening of the intestinal wall, as well as bleeding into the lumen of the intestine.

The incubation period can be as short as four days and clinical signs are typically seen within 21 days of infection. Lawsonia is then shed into the faeces from where it then infects the next pig. This faeces to pig route is the normal route of transmission, but rats can also contract and spread the bacteria.
How do you know if it’s on your farm?
The typical signs seen on farm are a pale pig that is growing poorly. The faeces can start to be loose (like cow dung) and can progress to have blood in it. The disease may affect any pigs from the post weaning phase up until adult. Sudden death may also occur in some cases. A diagnosis can be suspected by seeing the typical clinical signs and post mortem findings. Various lab tests are available to confirm the diagnosis.
How do you treat or prevent it?
Treatment is possible via injectable, in-feed and in-water antibiotics and there are a few different types of antibiotics that are effective against Lawsonia.
Prevention and control can both be accomplished by medicating at specific times during the growth phase of the pig. Certain disinfectants can kill Lawsonia and thereby help to prevent or control the disease.
Vaccination is also possible as a means to prevent or control the problem.
References:
Pig Diseases – D.J. Taylor; Diseases of Swine – Straw, Zimmerman, D’Allaire, Taylor

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