Swine Erysipelas Disease Management in Pigs/Swine: Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

Swine Erysipelas Disease is a bacterial infection that can significantly impact the swine industry. It is caused by the bacterium Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, commonly carried by up to 50% of pigs. The disease can manifest in several ways, including cutaneous erythema, septicemia, arthritis, and endocarditis, with the latter being the most severe.

Swine Erysipelas Disease Management in Pigs/Swine

The disease can have a significant economic impact on swine farmers due to reduced growth rates, reproductive problems, and increased mortality rates. Additionally, it can cause carcass condemnation at abattoirs, resulting in further losses for farmers. Diagnosis of swine erysipelas is typically made through bacterial culture or molecular testing.

Treatment generally involves using beta-lactam antibiotics, with penicillin being the most commonly recommended option. Vaccines effectively prevent acute disease in pig erysipelas, where prevention is important. Farmers should also practice good biosecurity measures, such as disinfection and isolation of infected animals, to prevent the spread of the disease.

Swine Erysipelas Disease Management in Pigs/Swine

Causes of Swine Erysipelas Disease in Swine

Swine Erysipelas Disease is caused by the bacterium Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, which can colonize up to 50% of pigs in intensive swine production areas. The organism usually lives in the tonsil tissue of healthy pigs. These pigs can pass the bacteria to other pigs through feces or oronasal secretions. The infection is usually acquired through ingesting contaminated feed, water, feces, or skin abrasions. The organism can survive through the stomach and intestines and remain viable in the feces for several months.

Disease Cycle of Swine Erysipelas Disease

At a young age, pigs exposed to Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae develop passive immunity through maternal-derived antibodies, suppressing clinical disease. Older pigs develop active immunity due to exposure to the organism, which may not necessarily lead to clinical disease. Recovered and chronically infected pigs can become carriers of Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, and healthy swine can also be asymptomatic carriers.

Factors that increase the risk of swine erysipelas disease include poor hygiene, overcrowding, and stressful conditions, such as transportation or changes in feed or environment. Concurrent infections, such as porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), can also increase the susceptibility to swine erysipelas disease.

What are the Symptoms of Swine Erysipelas Disease?

  • Erysipelas can affect piglets of all ages, but those between two months and one year are especially susceptible. The condition can manifest as either acute or chronic.
  • Acute erysipelas is characterized by high fever, depression, and a rapid course of illness, frequently resulting in mortality within two to three days if untreated. 
  • Some swine may develop a rigid gait, a reluctance to stand or move, and urticarial skin lesions. Sows that are pregnant may undergo an abortion.
  • Chronic erysipelas typically affects the joints, specifically the hock, stifle, elbow, and carpal joints. This can lead to serious impairment. 
  • Pigs may also develop valvular endocarditis, with the mitral valves most frequently afflicted. Also evident in both the acute and chronic forms of the disease are the characteristic diamond-shaped skin lesions.

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Pig Farm Disease Management

Diagnosis of Swine Erysipelas Disease

Diagnosing swine erysipelas involves several methods, such as clinical signs and gross lesions, response to antimicrobial therapy, and detecting the bacterium or DNA in tissues. Skin lesions and lameness support diagnosis, positive response to penicillin therapy, and isolation of E rhusiopathiae from blood in acute cases.

While rhomboid urticaria, also known as “diamond skin lesions,” is highly suggestive of the disease, it is not