The objectives of this study were to elucidate at which age tonsillar colonisation by Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae occurs in pigs and relate this occurrence to the presence of colostral antibodies to A. pleuropneumoniae. The infection patterns were studied in an isolated cohort of pigs, which consisted of the offspring from five sows originating from a conventional pig herd. The sows were transferred to isolated research facilities before farrowing. A. pleuropneumoniae was detected on the tonsils of all sows. After a nursing period of 3 weeks, the pigs were weaned and reared isolated from other pigs until slaughter. The pigs were examined repeatedly for the presence of A. pleuropneumoniae on the tonsils and for antibodies to A. pleuropneumoniae using bacteriological and serological techniques, respectively. A. pleuropneumoniae was detected in the tonsils of one pig as early as 11 days after birth, showing that A. pleuropneumoniae can be transmitted from sow to offspring during a 3-week nursing period. The cumulative proportion of pigs carrying A. pleuropneumoniae in their tonsils increased significantly between the age of 4-12 weeks. This age period corresponded to the age at which the proportion of pigs with detectable levels of colostral antibodies to the different serotypes of A. pleuropneumoniae was declining. Since these two events take place in the same age period, we expect a possible biological association between the level of the passive immunity and the degree of tonsillar colonisation. The median duration of tonsillar colonisation was estimated to approximately 7-8 weeks. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V All rights reserved.