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Escherichia coli in postweaning diarrhea in pigs: an update on bacterial types, pathogenesis, and prevention strategies

  • John M. Fairbrother (a1), Éric Nadeau (a1) and Carlton L. Gyles (a2)

Escherichia coli is one of the most important causes of postweaning diarrhea in pigs. This diarrhea is responsible for economic losses due to mortality, morbidity, decreased growth rate, and cost of medication. The E. coli causing postweaning diarrhea mostly carry the F4 (K88) or the F18 adhesin. Recently, an increase in incidence of outbreaks of severe E. coli-associated diarrhea has been observed worldwide. The factors contributing to the increased number of outbreaks of this more severe form of E. coli-associated diarrhea are not yet fully understood. These could include the emergence of more virulent E. coli clones, such as the O149:LT:STa:STb:EAST1:F4ac, or recent changes in the management of pigs. Development of multiple bacterial resistance to a wide range of commonly used antibiotics and a recent increase in the prevalence and severity of the postweaning syndromes will necessitate the use of alternative measures for their control. New vaccination strategies include the oral immunization of piglets with live avirulent E. coli strains carrying the fimbrial adhesins or oral administration of purified F4 (K88) fimbriae. Other approaches to control this disease include supplementation of the feed with egg yolk antibodies from chickens immunized with F4 or F18 adhesins, breeding of F18- and F4-resistant animals, supplementation with zinc and/or spray-dried plasma, dietary acidification, phage therapy, or the use of probiotics. To date, not a single strategy has proved to be totally effective and it is probable that the most successful approach on a particular farm will involve a combination of diet modification and other preventive measures.

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