Press release

Large-scale research into streptococcus in piglets

Published on
April 4, 2018

ForFarmers, Trouw Nutrition, and Boehringer Ingelheim are participating in a three-year-long joint research project by Wageningen University & Research (WUR) into streptococcal infections in piglets. The research project is being funded by the ‘Top-sector Agri & Food’ government programme until 2022.

Streptococcus is a big problem faced by pig farmers, as this bacterial infection causes a large number of deaths amongst piglets. As no registered vaccination exists on the Dutch market, the vet can do little more than prescribe antibiotics to fight the infection. With this research project, the participating parties want to extend the knowledge about the development of the specific immunity of piglets against the bacteria and how piglets can be better protected from the bacteria without using antibiotics.

Two central questions

The research is primarily focused on the role of the sow in developing maternal immunity and the protection that the sow gives to the piglets via the colostrum. It aims to identify how long this protection lasts and how this can be extended through the sow feed and feed for piglets. This is predominantly the domain of ForFarmers and Trouw. ‘We first want to identify at which moment the antibodies that the piglet received from the colostrum stop working. Then we need to see how we can continue to protect the piglets against streptococcal infections through the milk and the piglet feed,’ explains Jan Fledderus, Innovation Manager Piglets at ForFarmers. ‘This research is of significant importance for both our sow feeds and piglet feeds.’

Boehringer Ingelheim researches the effect of the vaccination against viral infections (PRRSV) on streptococcal infections. It is known that a PRRS infection changes the immune response of piglets, and they seem to become more susceptible to streptococcal infections. However, the exact influence of the vaccination against PRRS infections on the immunity against streptococcal infections is still unknown.

The research

The project is part of the 1Health4Food consortium which is an ambitious public-private research programme dedicated to animal health and public health. Wageningen Bioveterinary Research, which is part of WUR and located in Lelystad, the Netherlands, conducts the research and provides the expertise. The three corporate partners contribute their specific knowledge and test the results for practical application. The research starts with a first inventory at farms about the influence of the colostrum intake of individual piglets and testing blood samples for antibodies against streptococcus. A special test will be developed for this. The results of this first study will form the foundation for the follow-up study in which the role of nutrition and vaccination will be further investigated.