Research Conducted by the WCVM Expected to Lead to New Preventions and Treatments for Ear Tip Necrosis

Apr 08, 2024

Research conducted by the Western College of veterinary Medicine is expected to lead to the development of new approaches to prevent or treat ear tip necrosis.

A study conducted by the Western College of Veterinary Medicine has shown ear tip necrosis, a condition where the tip of the ear turns necrotic leading to partial or complete loss of the ear, is caused by a bacterium introduced when the skin is broken.

Dr. Matheus Costa, an Assistant Professor with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and an adjunct professor with Utrecht University, says virtually all pigs carry this bacterium and, if one pig chews on another other pig's ear, that will inoculate the ear.

Quote-Dr. Matheus Costa-Western College of Veterinary Medicine:

It usually begins with some reddening on the ear tip but it moves to necrosis so the tissue starts to rot and die to the point that sometimes pigs become mutilated and they completely lose their ear.That is a very severe case.It's not always like that.Sometimes it's just the ear tip that may necrotise, sometimes it's the whole ear and obviously that is a big animal welfare and heath issue.

From an animal health perspective, whenever necrosis starts there is an open wound and that breaks the defence barriers in the skin so the moment the skin is no longer protecting the body anything on the environment can jump in and invade the host so animals are susceptible to infection.Something as simple as Strep suis can come in and cause disease just because there's an open door.Studies have shown that productivity may not be directly affected by ear necrosis, so simply having ear necrosis does not mean that a pig will not gain weight as fast.

It's not the primary cause of poor weight gain and performance but it does open the door to other infections and those infections are the ones that will come in and essentially make them not perform as well, lower growth, have other infections or may even require further treatment or something else.

Dr. Costa says now that we know this condition is caused by a bacterium we can potentially develop antibiotic therapies to treat the condition or even vaccines to prevent it.

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