Animal Health Research Reviews

Review Article

Polymicrobial respiratory disease in pigs

T. Opriessniga1 c1, L. G. Giménez-Lirolaa1 and P. G. Halbura1

a1 Department of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University, 1600 S. 16th Street, Ames, IA 50011, USA


Respiratory disease in pigs is common in modern pork production worldwide and is often referred to as porcine respiratory disease complex (PRDC). PRDC is polymicrobial in nature, and results from infection with various combinations of primary and secondary respiratory pathogens. As a true multifactorial disease, environmental conditions, population size, management strategies and pig-specific factors such as age and genetics also play critical roles in the outcome of PRDC. While non-infectious factors are important in the initiation and outcome of cases of PRDC, the focus of this review is on infectious factors only. There are a variety of viral and bacterial pathogens commonly associated with PRDC including porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV), swine influenza virus (SIV), porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2), Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae (MHYO) and Pasteurella multocida (PMULT). The pathogenesis of viral respiratory disease is typically associated with destruction of the mucocilliary apparatus and with interference and decrease of the function of pulmonary alveolar and intravascular macrophages. Bacterial pathogens often contribute to PRDC by activation of inflammation via enhanced cytokine responses. With recent advancements in pathogen detection methods, the importance of polymicrobial disease has become more evident, and identification of interactions of pathogens and their mechanisms of disease potentiation has become a topic of great interest. For example, combined infection of pigs with typically low pathogenic organisms like PCV2 and MHYO results in severe respiratory disease. Although the body of knowledge has advanced substantially in the last 15 years, much more needs to be learned about the pathogenesis and best practices for control of swine respiratory disease outbreaks caused by concurrent infection of two or more pathogens. This review discusses the latest findings on polymicrobial respiratory disease in pigs.

(Received September 19 2011)

(Accepted October 04 2011)


c1 Corresponding author. E-mail: