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Balantidium coli

(511) This single cell protozoan organism is found in the caecum and large colon as a normal inhabitant. It is debatable whether it is a primary pathogen in pigs and is more likely to be a secondary invader after bacterial or viral infections e.g. salmonella. It is thought however that if abnormal digestion takes place the parasite may multiply to large numbers, causing erosion and mild inflammation of the mucous membrane followed by colitis. Under the microscope it appears as a sphere covered with hair like structures which propel it through the liquid material in the bowel. Once outside the pig the organism rapidly forms a spherical cyst that remains infectious for long periods of time. B. coli uses starch from the large bowel as its source of nutrition and certain types of diet or undigested food contribute to its multiplication. The organism can also affect the human causing colitis. Soft liquid faeces, that may develop into diarrhoea, are seen in pigs from 4 to 12 weeks of age. The cycle of infection is direct.

Clinical signs

These are similar to colitis, sloppy grey faeces and in some pigs there can be considerable loss of condition.


Post-mortem examinations of affected pigs should be carried out within half an hour of death. Fresh wet scrapings are taken from the lining of the large intestine and examined microscopically.


  • Sulphonamides and dimetridazole have a moderate effect on B. coli.
  • Consider those recommended for controlling colitis.
  • Change the components of the feed or use a different ration and assess the response.
  • Feed meal instead of pellets.
Management control and prevention
  • Hygiene is important in preventing a build-up of cysts in the pens.
  • Develop all-in all-out systems.
  • Check that other enteric diseases are not present including E. coli diarrhoea, salmonellosis, swine dysentery, spirochaetosis, PE and non specific colitis.
  • Steam clean pens
  • Use bleaches or ammonia based disinfectants to sterilise floors.

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