Lawsonia intracellularis is an obligate intracellular bacterium associated with enteric disease in pigs. Clinical signs include weight loss, diarrhea, and, in some cases, sudden death. The hallmark lesion is the thickening of the intestinal mucosa caused by increased epithelial cell replication, known as proliferative enteropathy. The immune response to L. intracellularis is not well defined, and detection of the infection, especially in the early stages, is still a significant challenge. We review here the main approaches used to identify this important but poorly understood pathogen. Detection of L. intracellularis infection as the cause of clinical disease is confounded by the fact that the prevalence of the pathogen is high in many countries, and there are several other pathogens that can produce similar clinical signs. A single L. intracellularis-specific ELISA and several amplification assays are available commercially to aid detection and surveillance, although histopathology remains the primary way to reach a conclusive diagnosis. There are major gaps in our understanding of L. intracellularis pathogenesis, especially how the host responds to infection, and the factors that drive infection toward different clinical outcomes. Knowledge of pathogenesis will increase the predictive value of antemortem tests to guide appropriate interventions, including identification and treatment of subclinically affected pigs in the early stages of disease, given that this important manifestation reduces pig productivity and contributes to the economic burden of L. intracellularis worldwide.
- Detection tools
- Lawsonia intracellularis
- Porcine proliferative enteropathy