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Open Access Research article

Seroprevalence of Lawsonia intracellularis antibodies in intensive pig farms in China

Zongxue Wu1, Yong Ling1, Deyu Tian1, Qing Pan1, Peter M H Heegaard2 and Cheng He1*

Author Affiliations

1 Key Lab of Animal Epidemiology and Zoonosis of Ministry of Agriculture, College of Veterinary Medicine, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China

2 Innate Immunology Group, National Veterinary Institute, Technical University of Denmark, 1870 Frederiksberg, Denmark

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BMC Veterinary Research 2014, 10:100  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-10-100

Published: 28 April 2014



Porcine proliferative enteropathy caused by Lawsonia intracellularis (L. intracellularis) is a major concern to the pig industry worldwide. Although 8.3 billion pigs are produced each year in China, few reports on the prevalence of L.intracellularis infection are available. The aim of the current study was to estimate the seroprevalence of L. intracellularis antibodies in intensive pig farms in China.


A total of 1060 serum samples were collected from 14 commercial pig farms located throughout China. Animals from all age groups were sampled including pre-weaning piglets, weaners, fattening pigs, adult sows and boars. Antibodies against L. intracellularis were detected using a specific blocking ELISA. Of the 1060 serum samples, 602 were identified as positive using the ELISA test. The apparent seroprevalence of L. intracellularis seropositivity was 57% (95% CI 50 to 64%). The true prevalence (that is, prevalence corrected for the imperfect sensitivity and specificity of the testing method) was 77% (95% CI 70 to 83%).


The highest true prevalence was observed in sows and boars, suggesting that within a herd these stock classes are a reservoir for infection. The prevalence of L. intracellularis seropositivity in local breed pigs was significantly less than that in imported breeds. A higher seroprevalence was found in pigs in herds in Central and Northern China, which may correspond to the greater use of the intensive production systems in these areas. We conclude that L. intracellularis is widely prevalent in commercial pigs in China.

Lawsonia intracellularis; Prevalence; Antibody; Pigs; China