Food-Borne Bacteria in Pigs and Humans Linked

by 5m Editor
19 November 2008, at 9:45am

US - Researchers have found a clear link between pig health and human health by linking carcass swabs counnts to bacteria that can cause food-borne disease in humans, including campylobacter, enterococcus, enterobacteriaceae and salmonella.

A study was set up to measure the relationship between lesions suggestive of subclinical pig illness at harvest to carcass contamination and human foodborne risk. A summary of the paper is offered by the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV).

Over the course of eight visits (December 2005 to January 2006), first author, H.S. Hurd explained that they swabbed 280 randomly selected carcasses during normal slaughter operations at three points in the slaughter line: skin pre-scald; the bung or pelvic cavity following removal of the distal colon and rectum; and pleural cavity, immediately before the final carcass rinse.

Each swab sponge was used on five carcasses in bung and pleural cavity sampling. Swab sponges were cultured quantitatively for Campylobacter spp., Enterococcus spp., and Enterobacteriaceae spp., and qualitatively for Salmonella spp.

Data on health indicators were collected for all pigs in the study (2,625 pigs) by experienced plant quality assurance personnel.

Main Findings

The researchers recovered Campylobacter spp. from the pleural cavity in 58.9% (33/56) of pools (five carcasses/pool), and in 44.6% (25/56) of pools from the bung cavity.

Enterococcus spp. were recovered from 66.1% (37/56) and 35.7% (20/56) of pleural and bung pools, respectively.

The most common lesion identified was the peel-out (pleuritis or adhesions), with a total of 7.1% (186/2,625 total head).

Linear regression showed that for every percentage point increase in peel-outs, Enterococcus spp. contamination increased by 4.4% and Campylobacter spp. increased by 5.1% (P<0.05).


This study showed a correlation between animal health and human health risk, as measured by carcass contamination. Therefore, animal management decisions on-farm, such as housing, antibiotic use, environment and level of veterinary care, may directly impact public health.

Hurd H.S., Brudvig J., Dickson J., Mirceta J., Polovinski M., Matthews N. and Griffith R., 2008. Swine Health Impact on Carcass Contamination and Human Foodborne Risk, Public Health Report, 2008 May-Jun, 123(3): 343-351.

5m Editor