Are you giving M. hyo the attention it deserves?
Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae (M. hyo) isn’t a new problem in the pork industry. I’s been around for years, but that’s exactly the point: Why is the industry still wrestling with it?
Maria Pieters, DVM, PhD, a veterinarian and assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, who has specialized in M. hyo research for a number of years, thinks it’s time for the pork industry to up its game with control measures and work toward eliminating the costly bacterium.
Mycoplasma needs more attention
Part of the problem is that the pork industry hadn’t paid much attention to M. hyo until recently, she told Pig Health Today. With better tests and a higher understanding of the costs associated with M. hyo, she feels the industry is in a better place to control and eliminate the problem.
M. hyo exists in most US herds, Pieters noted, but the full cost of its presence was never quantified until recently. Producers and their veterinarians now use metrics to measure the cost of M. hyo to their systems, Pieters said, adding that the amount averages about $5 per head in a grower-finisher operation.
“That has been the driver for people to think about control as something that is really needed in the field,” Pieters said.
In today’s environment of tight margins, saving $5 per pig can’t be ignored. Pieters considers M. hyo control to be “low-hanging fruit,” because the cost could actually be much higher based on the role M. hyo plays in co-infections.
“Mycoplasma is a door opener,” Pieters said. “If Mycoplasma is there, other bacterial or viral agents will have a better opportunity to get comfortable in the respiratory system and cause more disease…”
Since most farms are already positive to M. hyo, Pieters feels control is key, with the ultimate goal of elimination.
“Many studies show this [approach] is doable,” Pieters said. “Of course, the success rate is not 100%, but it’s very high and you can easily justify embarking on an elimination program because it pays off.”
Because farms differ in management, size, facilities, proximity to other animals and other variables, control programs are flexible and adjustable, Pieters noted. The protocol uses a combination of antibiotics, vaccines and management.
“This is a very tricky bug, and it can stay in the respiratory tract of the pig for a very long time — more than 7 months,” she said. “We have to use a combination of different methods…to tackle this pathogen.”
Pieters said veterinarians’ and researchers’ understanding of the epidemiology of the disease has changed, which provides the opportunity to design protocols that are more strategic for elimination.
Over the last 10 years the industry has made “tremendous improvement” in diagnostics for M. hyo, Pieters said. New methods are more sensitive for detection, though they are more invasive.
“We’re doing deep tracheal catheters for sampling and that, combined with a real-time polymerase chain reaction, has achieved a high level of sensitivity,” Pieters said.
A long but worthwhile process
The goal of eliminating the bacterium from US herds won’t happen anytime soon, but the industry recognizes the value of M. hyo elimination and is working in that direction, Pieters said. In the next 3 to 5 years, she believes a high percentage of herds will be M. hyo-negative.
“People are seeing the benefits of having their farms negative to Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae,” she said, noting that, in itself, will encourage other producers to work toward elimination of M. hyo.
Posted on March 19, 2019