Objective pathogen monitoring in nursery and finisher pigs by monthly laboratory diagnostic testing

Nicole B. Goecke*, Maja Kobberø, Thomas K. Kusk, Charlotte K. Hjulsager, Ken Steen Pedersen, Charlotte S. Kristensen, Lars E. Larsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Background: Infectious diseases are of great economic importance in commercial pig production, causing both clinical and subclinical disease, with influence on welfare, productivity, and antibiotic use. The causes of these diseases are often multifactorial and laboratory diagnostics are seldom routinely performed. The aim of the present study was to explore the benefits of monthly pathogen monitoring in nursery and finisher herds and to examine association between laboratory results and observed clinical signs, including coughing and diarrhoea. Three monthly samplings were conducted in three different age groups in six nursery and four finisher production units. For each unit, two pens were randomly selected in each age group and evaluated for coughing and diarrhoea events. Furthermore, faecal sock and oral fluid samples were collected in the selected pens and analysed for 18 respiratory and enteric viral and bacterial pathogens using the high-throughput real-time PCR BioMark HD platform (Fluidigm, South San Francisco, USA). 

Results: In total, 174 pens were sampled in which eight coughing events and 77 diarrhoeic events were observed. The overall findings showed that swine influenza A virus, porcine circovirus 2, porcine cytomegalovirus, Brachyspira pilosicoli, Lawsonia intracellularis, Escherichia coli fimbria types F4 and F18 were found to be prevalent in several of the herds. Association between coughing events and the presence of swine influenza A virus, porcine cytomegalovirus (Cq ≤ 20) or a combination of these were found. Furthermore, an association between diarrhoeic events and the presence of L. intracellularis (Cq ≤ 24) or B. pilosicoli (Cq ≤ 26) was found. 

Conclusions: The use of high-throughput real-time PCR analysis for continuous monitoring of pathogens and thereby dynamics of infections in a pig herd, provided the veterinarian and farmer with an objective knowledge on the distribution of pathogens in the herd. In addition, the use of a high-throughput method in combination with information about clinical signs, productivity, health status and antibiotic consumption, presents a new and innovative way of diagnosing and monitoring pig herds and even to a lower cost than the traditional method.

Original languageEnglish
Article number23
JournalPorcine Health Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Coughing
  • Diagnostics
  • Diarrhoea
  • Enteric bacteria
  • Enteric viruses
  • High-throughput real-time PCR
  • Monitoring
  • Respiratory bacteria
  • Respiratory viruses


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