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Swine dysentery (SD), a mucohaemorrhagic diarrhoeal disease of pigs, results from infection of the large intestine with the spirochaete Brachyspira hyodysenteriae. ELISA systems using whole spirochaete cells (WC) and the B. hyodysenteriae outer membrane lipoprotein Bhlp29.7 previously have been established as potential diagnostic tools for SD. However, their true value in identifying infected herds remains unclear. The present study aimed to compare the performance of whole-cell and Bhlp29.7 based ELISAs in detecting specific immunoglobulin class IgG and IgM to B. hyodysenteriae in growing pigs, and additionally evaluated whether meat juice could serve as a source of specific antibodies.
Levels of circulating IgG and IgM reacting with WC spirochaete preparations and recombinant Bhlp29.7 peaked 4-6 weeks post-infection in the experimentally challenged pigs, and remained elevated in the present study. In a cohort of pigs on an infected farm levels of antibody directed against both antigens showed a progressive increase with time. However, other than for the level of IgG against WC antigen, a significant increase in antibody levels also was observed in a cohort of pigs on a non-infected farm. In addition, assays using meat juice had 100% specificity and equivalent sensitivity to those based on serum, and likewise the best performance was achieved using the WC IgG ELISA.
IgG ELISAs using either WC or Bhlp29.7 as plate-coating antigens were shown to be useful for monitoring the dynamics of B. hyodysenteriae infection in grower pigs. Of the two antigens, the WC preparation tended to give better discrimination between pigs from infected and non-infected farms. Testing of meat juice was shown to have potential for identifying infected herds.