Necrotic Enteritis

Necrotic Enteritis

Bloody enteric inflammation caused by C. perfringens type C.

Infection with Clostridium perfringens type C leads to necrotic enteritis in newborn piglets within the first hours to days of life. The susceptibility to the disease (morbidity) is 15%–80% and the losses (mortality) can be up to 100%. The cause factors for the high susceptibility of neonatal piglets to clostridia are the trypsin inhibitors present in colostrum and a high gastric pH. Trypsin is an enzyme involved in the digestion of protein that has also been shown to break down Clostridium perfringens ß-toxins. The presence of trypsin inhibitors allows the ß-toxins to freely enter the digestive tract where they can cause harmful effects. The trypsin inhibitors in colostrum protect the colostral antibodies, but they also inhibit the natural protection of piglets against Clostridium perfringens type C.

Necrotic Enteritis

© CVUA Münster – Intestinal content with gas caused by C. perfringens.

As a result of the trypsin inhibitors, necrotic enteritis occurs almost exclusively in the suckling period, Clostridium perfringens type C produces ß-toxins that are primarily responsible for necrotic enteritis. The toxins cause necrosis of the villi and the deeper layers of the mucosa. This may lead to a leakage of blood into the intestines. Depending on the amount of toxin formed, the disease will progress in different ways. In general there is impaired nutrient absorption, diarrhoea and an imbalance of the normal gut flora (microbiota). In addition, affected piglets have reduced appetite, rough haircoat and are lethargic. In cases when the disease is not lethal, the piglets show signs of wasting. There are three different forms of NE: peracute, acute and chronic:

Toxin production is so massive that the piglets die immediately after birth without clinical symptoms of diarrhoea.

Piglets have brown-red diarrhoea. The rear of the piglet is smeared with bloody faeces. The piglets die within the first 24 hours. In some dead piglets gas quickly appears.

Low amounts of toxin cause a yellow-grey, mucoid diarrhoea. Local thickening of the intestines can be visible, so called 'tiger stripes'.