Coccidiosis - The Facts

To truly understand the impact of piglet coccidiosis, it's a good idea to get an understanding of the facts. Coccidia are intracellular protozoan parasites. In more simplistic terms – they are microscopic parasites that survive in the environment and develop within the intestinal tract of infected piglets. Coccidia can infect baby pigs and cause disease by damaging the cells that line the small intestine.

Coccidia can infect young piglets and cause disease by damaging the cells that line the small intestine.

Coccidiosis occurs when piglets ingest coccidial oocysts (eggs) from the farrowing pen surroundings, usually carried over from a previous litter.1

There are different types of coccidia much like there are different types of bacteria or different breeds of dogs. The type responsible for causing disease in newborn piglets is called Isospora suis.2 The infection it causes results in intestinal damage and diarrhea in newborn piglets. In some situations, where baby pigs are already infected with a bacteria, like Clostridium perfringens (which causes bloody scours in newborn piglets), the two infections work together to cause serious losses. In this type of co-infection, pre-weaning mortality as high as 30% has been documented.1

To appreciate the damage that Isospora suis can cause it is helpful to have an understanding of the life cycle of this parasite.

Learn about the life cycle

1. Mengel, H, et al., Necrotic enteritis due to simultaneous infection with Isospora suis and clostridia in newborn piglets and its prevention by early treatment with toltrazuril. Parasitol Res. Published online: 04 Oct 2011, DOI 10.1007/s00436-011-2633-8.

2. Lindsay DS, Blagburn BL, and Dubey JP. Chapter 46: Coccidia and Other Protozoa. Diseases of Swine, Ed. Barb Straw et al, Copyright 1999, Iowa State Press, p. 655-660.