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(351) This is caused by a tiny bacterium called Actinobacillus suis or sometimes Actinobacillus equuli. The first of these is present in most herds and lives in the tonsils of older pigs, particularly sows. It may enter the piglet via the respiratory system or via cuts and abrasions. It occasionally produces a septicaemia, that is, it invades and multiplies in the blood stream and settles out in various parts of the body, particularly the lungs and the joints. Here it produces multiple small abscesses. During the acute septicaemic phase of the disease sudden death is often the only symptom. It can be precipitated by PRRS. It is not a common disease.

The disease has become more prevalent with the advent of PRRS particularly in piglets 1 to 3 weeks old. Occasional disease may be seen in pigs up to 16 weeks of age.

Clinical signs

Sudden death in otherwise apparently healthy pigs is common, involving only one or two litters and only one or two pigs per litter. In less acute cases there may be discoloration of the skin, a very high fever, coughing and pneumonia. Occasionally skin lesions are seen that can resemble erysipelas. Some piglets may develop arthritis and lameness.


If there is a history in the herd of sudden death then laboratory examinations are necessary to demonstrate the presence of the organism.

Similar diseases

Meningitis, acute E. coli infection, erysipelas, clostridial diseases and pigs that have been laid on can produce very similar symptoms.


  • The organism is sensitive to most antibiotics but in particular injections of ceftiofur 3mg per kg, amoxycillin or ampicillin at 5mg per kg or procaine penicillin, 1ml/20kg.
  • Other antibiotics that can be used include OTC, lincomycin, cephalexin and trimethoprim/sulpha.
  • In persistent outbreaks if the appearance of the disease is predictable then preventive measures can be taken by giving long-acting preparations of the above medicines to all litters over a period of 3 to 4 weeks after which the preventative medication then ceases and the situation is then further assessed.
  • In-feed medication with phenoxymethyl penicillin at 200g/tonne to the sow for the first 3 weeks of farrowing has proved successful in problem cases.
Management control and prevention
  • In persistent herd problems the point of entry may be associated with teeth clipping or de-tailing, scrubbed knees from poor concrete, or respiratory spread from the sow. Assess the significance of these.
  • Where there are rough concrete floors it may help to brush these over with lime wash containing 28ml phenolic disinfectant to 4.5 litres of lime wash.

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