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Air-cleaning technology could slash respiratory disease risk

A technology that reduces dust, germs and gasses from the air in pig sheds could help cut the number of pigs that develop lesions associated with respiratory disease.

Researchers working with UK levy body AHDB Pork found that pigs finished in units that made use of electrostatic particle ionization (EPI) were 70% less likely to show signs of enzootic pneumonia-like lesions than animals raised without the air cleaning systems.

In a study involving more than 300 finisher pigs, scientists compared animals kept in conventional slatted pig rooms with those finished in a room installed with EPI technology.

The technology, which is beginning to become commercially available for pig production, works by generating negative ions that charge particles in the air.

When those charged particles collide with each other they become polarized, giving them a positive and negative side.

This polarization causes them to stick to each other — and to surfaces they touch — like a magnet, helping to clean the air and trapping pathogens to surfaces where they are less likely to be able to infect pigs.

Significant lesion reduction

Presenting the study’s findings at the British Society of Animal Science annual conference, Dominic Chairman, technical manager of AHDB Pork, said the research saw 360 pigs transferred into fully slatted pig rooms at nine weeks old.

The animals — which were identical in terms of breed, management and feed — were split into two groups, with one group housed in a standard room, and the second housed in a room with EPI equipment fitted.

Over 10 weeks, the research team measured ventilation, temperature, relative humidity, dust, atmospheric and settle gram negative bacteria and ammonia at both fan and pig height.

They discovered that respirable dust — dust that can be breathed in and deposited in the respiratory tract — showed one of the most notable declines.

What’s more, levels of gram-negative bacteria, including Escherichia coli and bacterial pneumonia, also fell significantly, potentially having a significant effect on respiratory health, Charman said.

“At slaughter, we discovered there was a highly significant reduction in enzootic pneumonia-like lesions in the treatment of pigs at slaughter,” he told delegates.

“Enzootic pneumonia-like lesions were actually 4.5 times less likely to occur in the pigs from the EPI rooms than in control pigs.

“It is likely that this contributed to the reduction in enzootic pneumonia-like lesions in these pigs, as reductions in particulate has been significantly linked to reductions in pneumonia-lake lesions in other work,” he added.

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