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New Test Readied for Pig Disease

By Linda McGraw
February 17, 1999

A new test promises help for lab technicians and veterinarians trying to detect bacteria that lead to a costly pig disease. Each year, atrophic rhinitis costs pork producers $17 million in lost weight and delays to market. Pigs with this disease are also highly susceptible to pneumonia.

Two toxin-producing bacteria--Bordetella bronchiseptica and Pasteurella multocida--are the culprits behind atrophic rhinitis. This disease is highly contagious and spreads quickly among pigs in confinement houses. P. multocida reduces long bone growth, causing shortened and twisted snouts on severely infected pigs. But snout deformities are not always obvious.

Detecting bacteria quickly may help cut losses by allowing producers to combine treatments including antibiotic therapy, vaccination, and depopulation. Current diagnostic methods can take at least 5 to 7 days and aren’t always reliable.

ARS molecular microbiologist Karen B. Register in Ames, Iowa, designed the test using probes made from the genetic material of P. multocida and B. bronchiseptica. These probes target the toxin-producing gene of P. multocida and a gene found in all disease-causing strains of B. bronchispetica, in a nasal or tonsil swab taken from live pigs. Bacteria in the samples are grown and placed on a paper-like sheet of nylon. Any spot where B. bronchiseptica is present turns pink. Any area containing toxin-producing P. multocida turns purple. Results from this test are obtained within 3 days.

ARS is the USDA’s chief scientific research agency.

Scientific contact: Karen B. Register, ARS Avian and Swine Respiratory Research Unit, National Animal Disease Center, Ames, Iowa, phone (515) 239-8275, fax (515) 239-8458,