Also known as: A. suum — large pig roundworm
Ascaris suum is a member of the Ascarididae family and is the major cause of ascariasis in pigs. Its life cycle, like all ascarids, is not typical of nematodes as the infectious stage is within the egg. Due to the migratory life cycle of the larval stages this parasite can be the cause of post-hepatic jaundice and pneumonia. The nematode may also be a reservoir of Swine influenza. The major detrimental effects of A. suum is in the economic loss due to the damage to liver tissue, white spot, and the decreased growth rate of the pigs. Up to 7% of pig liver in the UK is trimmed or condemned at slaughter due to the presence of white spot due to A. suum infection.
Ascaris suum is a large roundworm of pigs, each worm can grow up to 40cm long. As with all nematodes the females are considerably larger than the males.
As with most ascarid species the larvae of Ascaris suum have a migratory life cycle moving through several body organs before becoming mature adults in the small intestine of the pig.
Eggs are shed in the faeces of the host and have a thick proteinacious coat that allows them to exist on pasture for extended periods of time, up to 4 years. The proteinacious coat allows this long survival on pasture and also makes the eggs extremely difficult to destroy with common disinfectants.
The larval stages are migratory, moving through several organ systems before becoming adults. This is the stage of the parasite that is mainly responsible for the clinical signs of A. suum infection. The larvae hatches from the egg at the L2 stage, from here is migrates from the small intestine to the liver via the hepatic portal vein. Whilst migrating through the liver the larvae create haemorrhagic tracts, these are later repaired with fibrous tissue causing the appearance of milk spots. From the liver the larvae move to the heart and lungs where they cause the major clinical signs of A. suum infection. In the heart a high worm burden will seriously reduce the cardiac output and may also cause blockage which can be fatal. The presence of larvae in lungs can lead to diffuse interstitial pneumonia with haemorrhage, atelectasis, interlobular oedema and emphysema. The larvae in the lungs will move up towards the trachea which will stimulate the coughing reflex and cause them to be coughed up into the pigs mouth to be reswallowed as adults into the gastrointestinal system.
Adult worms reproduce in the small intestine of pigs. The females are able to produce up to 200,000 eggs per day for a period of 9 months.
A. suum is seen globally, however in temperate regions infection normally occurs in the summer months due to the warmer temperatures. Young piglets up to about 6 months old are most susceptible although they begin to develop immunity at about 4 months. Sows carrying adult worms will contaminate the farrowing house rapidly, as female worms can produce 200,000 eggs per day, causing a high incidence of infection in the litter. The highly resistant eggs can survive in the environment for up to 4 years with suitable conditions, this makes control very difficult especially in free range systems.
Young piglets are most susceptible to infection, in older animals immunity does develop but can take a few months to become strongly protective. Even 'immune' animals can carry small numbers of adult worms and therefore contaminate the environment.
Calves housed where infected pigs had previously been housed are susceptible to A. suum infection which can lead to the development of sever pneumonia.
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