Strona główna 9 Colibacteriosis in pigs

Colibacteriosis in pigs


Escherichia coli, enteric bacilli belonging to the Enterobacteriaceae family, were discovered by Theodor Escherich in the second half of the 19th century. They are gram-negative, relatively anaerobic bacteria that reside in many places in the environment, including the digestive tract of humans and animals.  E. coli are a component of the commensal intestinal microflora, residing on the mucosal surface of the gastrointestinal tract epithelium, and have a positive effect on host health. However, there are many pathogenic strains, with specific virulence, that cause a wide spectrum of intestinal and extraintestinal diseases and infections in humans and animals.


Pathogenic variants of E. coli bacteria have been grouped into broad classes or pathotypes based on the mechanisms by which they cause disease. Below, the types of major pathotypes that cause intestinal infections are shown schematically.

    There are two, major groups of pathogenic E. coli: enteric pathogenic E. coli (IPEC), associated with infections of the gastrointestinal tract, and extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC), associated with infections of extraintestinal anatomical sites (e.g., sepsis, urinary tract infections).

    Swine producers face enormous problems in breeding practice, one of the most important of which is bacterial infections, with a particular focus on Escherichia coli and associated morbidity and mortality.

    Pathogenic strains of E. coli are the cause of swine diseases called colibacterioses. We can distinguish the main types of diseases, which show specificity of occurrence with respect to group and age of animals.

    Exposure to E.coli infections is highly critical from the first days of piglet life. Infection of newborn piglets is caused by sudden exposure to the bacteria on the mother’s skin, in the delivery environment and other piglets. The second potentially dangerous stage of development is when piglets begin to be fed creep feed or milk replacers. An underdeveloped digestive system can be exposed to poor-quality diets, and a deficiency of immune antibodies to pathogenic bacteria causes diarrheal disease. The third sensitive time is the first few days after weaning. Piglets stop receiving maternal antibodies from milk, are subjected to high environmental stress which can be accompanied by lack of appetite-they become susceptible to the development of pathogenic E. coli. The bacteria quickly and efficiently colonize the epithelium of the small intestine, animals, producing one or more types of toxins. An imbalance of the intestinal microflora and the presence of E.coli enterotoxins results in the onset of diarrhea and can occur in both individual piglets and entire litters. Severe cases result in dehydration, apathy, growth retardation and a high rate of mortality.

    Weaned piglet edema disease (ED- edema disease) can occur simultaneously with post-weaning diarrhea. These are two types of disease caused by two different pathotypes of Escherichia coli. Post-weaning diarrhea usually occurs in the first few days after weaning, while edema disease develops 1-2 weeks later. Post-weaning diarrhea is shown to be caused by enterotoxigenic and enteropathogenic strains of E.coli (ETEC and EPEC) producing endotoxins that alter intestinal homeostasis and cause water and electrolyte disturbances, leading to diarrhea. In contrast, shigatoxin-producing E. coli (STEC) are responsible for the clinical manifestations of edema disease. The toxin released by the bacteria causes significant changes in the tissues of the gastric and intestinal mucosa, damages blood vessels, leading to swelling in various parts of the body (brain, eyelids, face, larynx, mesocolon) and the sudden appearance of neurological symptoms. It is also characterized by a much higher mortality rate than post-weaned diarrhea.

    Colibacteriosis can also affect other groups of pigs, fattening pigs and sows. Endotoxins of pathogenic parenteral E.coli strains (ExPEC) are responsible for mastitis, cause lactation disorders leading to the occurrence of postpartum agalactia in lactating sows.  There are also E.coli bacteria that cause septicemia and urinary tract infections. 

    Colibacteriosis causes significant economic losses to farmers due to high mortality rates, costs incurred for treatment, poor production performance, and increased feed consumption.

    Poor biosecurity, inadequate feeding, improper handling of piglets in the first weeks of life exposes animals to pathogenic E.coli and other associated infections, at different periods of growth. Achieving high production results and reducing the occurrence of problems is possible when maintaining good health of pigs.

    Ensuring adequate conditions for livestock is possible by supporting their natural immunity. Improved healthiness is based on multilayered defense mechanisms that prevent the onset of bacterial infection.

    Efforts should be made to enhance the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract, stimulate the secretion of digestive juices, minimize the presence of pathogenic microorganisms, and maintain the integrity of the intestines.

    In the era of antibiotic restriction and the increasing popularization of antibiotic-free farming, modern nutritional solutions are being sought to ensure that high production results are maintained without loss to farmers, along with maintaining a high animal health status.

    This situation is related to the growing awareness of the need to protect the effectiveness of antibiotics and consumer pressure to purchase high-quality, natural, healthy food. 

    An effective and increasingly common solution is the use of high-class phytogenic products, additives and feed diets, rich in vegetable plant substances such as essential oils, alkaloids, tannins, phenols. Appropriately selected compositions of micronized herbal and spice plants are a source of active ingredients that exhibit antimicrobial properties. Selected phytoncides (including phytoalexins), which act synergistically, in specific sections of the digestive tract support, strengthen and support the natural immunity of animals.

    If you are interested in details of the research being conducted on modern phytogenic solutions in animal production, we invite you to read the #ADIFACTS tab or contact your AdiFeed® representative.



    1. Luppi A.; Swine enteric colibacillosis: diagnosis, therapy and antimicrobial resistance; Porcine Health Management 2017, 3:16.
    2. Starčič Erjavec .; The Universe of Escherichia coli. Introductory Chapter: The Versatile Escherichia coli; IntechOpen 2019 1-16.
    3. Xu et al.; Overall assessment of antibiotic substitutes for pigs: a set of meta-analyses; Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology 2021, 12:3.
    4. Luppi A.; Swine enteric colibacillosis: diagnosis, therapy and antimicrobial resistance Porcine Health Management 2017, 3:16.
    5. Jacobson M.; On the Infectious Causes of Neonatal Piglet Diarrhoea—A Review. Vet. Sci. 2022, 9, 422.
    6. Weiner M.; Shigatoksyczne enterokrwotoczne szczepy Escherichia coli – nowe czy dobrze znane zagrożenie? Życie Weterynaryjne, 2011, 86(7) 507-514.
    7. Truszczyński M., Pejsak Z.; Zoonozy wywoływane przez bakterie i wirusy, których gospodarzem jest świnia; Życie Weterynaryjne, 2016, 91(2), 114-117.
    8. Pejsak Z., Truszczyński M.; Biegunki prosiąt ssących i odsadzonych; Życie Weterynaryjne, 2005,  80(3), 151-154.
    9. Pejsak Z., Pomorska Mól M.; Zdrowie świń prewencja i terapia. Polskie Wydawnictwo Rolnicze, 2021, 430-449.
    10. Truszczyński M., Pejsak Z.; Kolibakterioza neonatalna i poodsadzeniowa prosiąt z uwzględnieniem innych chorób biegunkowych. Życie Weterynaryjne 2017, 92(3) 184-187.
    11. Castro J., Barros M.M., Araújo D., Campos A.M., Oliveira R., Silva S., Almeida C.; Swine enteric colibacillosis: Current treatment avenues and future directions. Front. Vet. Sci. 2022, 9:981207.
    12. Barros M.M.; Castro J.; Araújo D.; Campos A.M.; Oliveira R.; Silva, S.; Outor-Monteiro D.; Almeida C.; Swine Colibacillosis: Global Epidemiologic and Antimicrobial Scenario. Antibiotics 2023, 12, 682.
    13. Ezzeroug Ezzraimi A.; Hannachi N.; Mariotti A.; Rolain J.-M.; Camoin-Jau L.; Platelets and Escherichia coli: A Complex Interaction. Biomedicines 2022, 10, 1636.
    14. Saitz W.; Montero D.A.; Pardo M.; Araya D.; De la Fuente M.; Hermoso M.A.; Farfán M.J.; Ginard D.; Rosselló-Móra R.; Rasko

     D.A.; et al. Characterization of Adherent-Invasive Escherichia coli (AIEC) Outer Membrane Proteins Provides Potential Molecular

     Markers to Screen Putative AIEC Strains. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2022, 23, 9005.

    Discover Our Solutions