Genetic Test Pinpoints New Swine
In Iowa and Australia, pig producers have been talking about a new bacterium
that causes watery diarrhea in pigs.
Although the diarrhea it produces doesn't cause bloody stools like swine
dysentery does, it still weakens the pigs, slows their growth, and does a
number on producers potential profits.
Until now, this bacterium resembling Serpulina hyodysenteriae--the
causative agent of swine dysentery--hasn't had a name. Agricultural Research
Service microbiologists Neil S. Jensen and Thad B. Stanton changed that when
they cracked its genetic code and developed a DNA-based test to identify it.
Naming bacteria isn't new to Jensen and Stanton. They changed the name of
Treponema hyodysenteriae to Serpulina hyodysenteriae in 1994, to
more accurately describe that serpent-shaped bacterium.
More recently, the use of electronic mail opened up a global laboratory for
Jensen and Stanton. No longer confined to their lab module at ARS
National Animal Disease Center (NADC) in Ames, Iowa, the two researchers
connected with Australian collaborators from Murdoch University in Perth.
Thats how Australian graduate student Darren J. Trott came to work in
Stantons laboratory and to coin the name for the puzzling new bacterium:
Serpulina pilosicoli. The name was reported in the January 1996 issue of
the International Journal of Systematic Bacteriology, published by the
American Society for Microbiology.
Its exciting to name a bacterium, says Stanton.
Once something has a name, everyone wants to talk about it. S.
pilosicoli has been identified in about half of the recent samples we've
checked from diseased pigs with spirochetal diarrhea in Iowa, and theres
a real need to determine the economic significance of this disease.
Jensens DNA-based test distinguishes between S. pilosicoli and
similar bacteria. It is being used at NADC to assist lab clinicians at Iowa
State Universitys Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Farmers and
veterinarians send fecal samples to the ISU laboratory in hopes of identifying
the cause of intestinal disease in their pigs. By Linda Cooke,
Stanton is in the USDA-ARS Pre-Harvest Food Safety and Enteric Diseases
Unit, National Animal Disease Center, Ames, IA; phone (515) 663-7495, fax (515)