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Newly Discovered Bacterium in Pigs May be More Widespread Than Thought

By Linda Cooke
March 6, 1997

A newly discovered bacterium that causes severe diarrhea in pigs may be more widespread than previously thought by farmers and veterinarians.

Scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service discovered and named the new bacterium Serpulina pilosicoli--”little serpent of the hairy colon.” Now they’ve developed a test that checks the DNA--genetic material--of the new disease-causing bacterium to distinguish between it and other similar bacteria and help gauge just how widespread S. pilosicoli has become.

S. pilosicoli is related to S. hyodysenteriae, the cause of swine dysentery that costs pig producers about $100 million annually. Although the diarrhea being reported in Iowa doesn’t look like swine dysentery, which produces a bloody stool, it still weakens pigs and slows their growth, cutting into producers’ profits.

The February issue of Agricultural Research, the monthly publication of the Agricultural Research Service, contains a report on the ARS work on unmasking and naming the new bacterium. This and other magazine stories are available in PDF format via the World Wide Web. The web site for the magazine is:


Scientific contact: Thad B. Stanton, USDA-ARS, National Animal Disease Center, Ames, Iowa 50010, phone (515) 239-8495, e-mail