Update on Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae infections in pigs: knowledge gaps for improved disease control.
Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae (M. hyopneumoniae) is the primary pathogen of enzootic pneumonia, a chronic respiratory disease in pigs. Infections occur worldwide and cause major economic losses to the pig industry. The present paper reviews the current knowledge on M. hyopneumoniae infections, with emphasis on identification and analysis of knowledge gaps for optimizing control of the disease. Close contact between infected and susceptible pigs is the main route of M. hyopneumoniae transmission. Management and housing conditions predisposing for infection or disease are known, but further research is needed to better understand M. hyopneumoniae transmission patterns in modern pig production systems, and to assess the importance of the breeding population for downstream disease control. The organism is primarily found on the mucosal surface of the trachea, bronchi and bronchioles. Different adhesins and lipoproteins are involved in the adherence process. However, a clear picture of the virulence and pathogenicity of M. hyopneumoniae is still missing. The role of glycerol metabolism, myoinositol metabolism and the Mycoplasma Ig binding protein-Mycoplasma Ig protease system should be further investigated for their contribution to virulence. The destruction of the mucociliary apparatus, together with modulating the immune response, enhances the susceptibility of infected pigs to secondary pathogens. Clinical signs and severity of lesions depend on different factors, such as management, environmental conditions and likely also M. hyopneumoniae strain. The potential impact of strain variability on disease severity is not well defined. Diagnostics could be improved by developing tests that may detect virulent strains, by improving sampling in live animals and by designing ELISAs allowing discrimination between infected and vaccinated pigs. The currently available vaccines are often cost-efficient, but the ongoing research on developing new vaccines that confer protective immunity and reduce transmission should be continued, as well as optimization of protocols to eliminate M. hyopneumoniae from pig herds.