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Herd specific risk factors for Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae infections in suckling pigs at the age of weaning

Heiko Nathues12, Henrike Woeste1, Stefanie Doehring1, Anna S Fahrion3, Marcus G Doherr3 and Elisabeth grosse Beilage1*

Author Affiliations

1 Field Station for Epidemiology, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, Buescheler Street 9, Bakum D-49456, Germany

2 Veterinary Epidemiology, Economics and Public Health Group, Department of Production and Population Health, Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, AL9 7TA, UK

3 Veterinary Public Health Institute, Department of Clinical Research - Veterinary Public Health, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, Schwarzenburgstrasse 155, Liebefeld (BE), CH-3097, Switzerland

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Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 2013, 55:30  doi:10.1186/1751-0147-55-30

Published: 12 April 2013



Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae is the etiologic agent of enzootic pneumonia mainly occurring in fattening pigs. It is assumed that horizontal transmission of the pathogen during nursery and growing phase starts with few suckling pigs vertically infected by the sow. The aim of the present study was the exploration of the herd prevalence of M. hyopneumoniae infections in suckling pigs followed by an investigation of various herd specific factors for their potential of influencing the occurrence of this pathogen at the age of weaning.


In this cross-sectional study, 125 breeding herds were examined by taking nasal swabs from 20 suckling pigs in each herd. In total, 3.9% (98/2500) of all nasal swabs were tested positive for M. hyopneumoniae by real-time PCR. Piglets tested positive originated from 46 different herds resulting in an overall herd prevalence of 36.8% (46/125) for M. hyopneumoniae infection in pigs at the age of weaning. While the herds were epidemiologically characterized, the risk for demonstration of M. hyopneumoniae was significantly increased, when the number of purchased gilts per year was more than 120 (OR: 5.8), and when the number of farrowing pens per compartment was higher than 16 (OR: 3.3). In herds with a planned and segregated production, where groups of sows entered previously emptied farrowing units, the risk for demonstration of M. hyopneumoniae in piglets was higher in herds with two or four weeks between batches than in herds with one or three weeks between batches (OR: 2.7).


In this cross-sectional study, several risk factors could be identified enhancing the probability of breeding herds to raise suckling pigs already infected with M. hyopneumoniae at the time of weaning. Interestingly, some factors (farrowing rhythm, gilt acclimatisation issues) were overlapping with those also influencing the seroprevalences among sows or the transmission of the pathogen between older age groups. Taking the multifactorial character of enzootic pneumonia into account, the results of this study substantiate that a comprehensive herd specific prevention programme is a prerequisite to reduce transmission of and disease caused by M. hyopneumoniae.

Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae; Enzootic pneumonia; Suckling pig; Epidemiology; Risk factor analysis; Prevalence