Ileitis' impact on the pig microbiome

New research about Lawsonia intracellularis and the pig’s microbiome
calendar icon 19 September 2022
clock icon 2 minute read

Fernando Leite, technical manager with Boehringer Ingelheim, spoke to The Pig Site's Sarah Mikesell at the Gordon Lawson Ileitis Symposium in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. Leite described his research about Ileitis, caused by the bacteria Lawsonia intracellularis and the pig’s microbiome.

“There are so many unknowns when it comes to Lawsonia, and one thing that really merits more investigation is the interaction of Lawsonia with the other microorganisms in the gut or the microbiome, simply because more and more we understand the importance of the microbiome,” said Leite. “Lawsonia has a drastic effect on that community and what that means for the pig is that it may actually increase the susceptibility of the pig to potential co-infections. The microbiome is a piece that can help us understand some of the unknowns.”

The co-infection connection

Leite presented data from several studies demonstrating how Lawsonia and Salmonella can cause a co-infection and Lawsonia actually enhances a Salmonella infection. Interestingly, this occurs in the microbiome.

Lawsonia will open the door because it changes the microbiome community so much that it facilitates another pathogen coming in and altering the community,” he said. “It's not as stable, and it facilitates for another pathogen to then take hold.”

What can producers do?

The co-infection connection emphasizes the importance of Lawsonia prevention through vaccination. Studies show that oral live vaccination with Enterisol Ileitis can actually protect the pig from allowing Lawsonia to have a negative effect on the microbiome.

“By protecting the microbial community, it actually prevents co-infection. What that means for producers is that they need to understand Lawsonia can damage the gut and allow for other pathogens to emerge,” he said. “If we can control Lawsonia to begin with through vaccination, we can prevent the destabilization of the community, the increased susceptibility of the pig to another pathogen and overall decreased pig health. At the end of the day, it demonstrates the importance of vaccination to protect the microbiome and prevent Lawsonia, which can open the door to so many other things.”

Is Lawsonia on your farm?

Lawsonia is an endemic pathogen, so chances are that if a producer tests for it, he/she will find it. Prevention is essential because odds are high that pig populations will be challenged it on the farm.

During the conference, Dr. Nick Gabler, professor at Iowa State University, presented data that clearly showed the economic impact of the disease on feed efficiency. Thus, it can impact growth performance.

“It's one pathogen, but it can wreak havoc to the health and productivity of the pig,” said Leite.

Sarah Mikesell


Sarah Mikesell grew up on a five-generation family farming operation in Ohio, USA, where her family still farms. She feels extraordinarily lucky to get to do what she loves - write about livestock and crop agriculture. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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