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Lawsonia PCR test for primates
primate assay data sheet

Lawsonia intracellularis

Test code:
B0035 - Ultrasensitive qualitative detection of Lawsonia intracellularis by real time polymerase chain reaction


Proliferative enteropathy, also known as proliferative ileitis, is caused by infection with Lawsonia intracellularis, an obligate intracellular, curve-shaped, argyrophilic bacterium. The disease has been detected in domestic and laboratory animals including primates, pig, horse, dog, rat, ferret, guinea pig, rabbit and hamster. The disease has been reported sporadically in foals 3-7 months of age and one outbreak involving 3 different breeding farms has been described. All reported cases were in the eastern half of Canada or the United States. The swine industry suffers the most significant impact from this disease. The disease has two clinical manifestations in pigs: an acute hemorrhagic form often called porcine hemorrhagic enteropathy, and a more chronic proliferative form often referred as porcine intestinal adenomatosis.

Environmental contamination with feces of infected animals appears to be the most important route of transmission of disease, but it is currently unknown how long Lawsonia intracellularis can remain infectious outside the animal. Infection occurs most often during the post-weaning period, when passive maternal immunity declines. After ingestion, the bacteria infect intestinal proliferating crypt epithelial cells and multiply within the apical cytoplasm. There is no evidence of infection of tissues other than intestine. Most animals have subclinical infection but shed the bacteria in their feces, leading to environmental contamination. Clinical manifestation of an infection can be triggered by stressors, such as overcrowding, transport, change in diet, and experimental manipulation.

Bacterial culture and isolation of the bacteria are difficult because cultured enterocytes are required to support the growth of Lawsonia intracellularis. Electron microscopy can be used to detect the curved bacterial rods in apical cytoplasm of enterocytes but this is a very time-consuming process and few laboratories have such capability. Immunohistochemical detection can be performed on formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue from affected intestine to detect the bacteria in following biopsy or necropsy, but this is also a very time-consuming process. Molecular detection using PCR is the most sensitive, rapid and specific method to confirm presence of the Lawsonia intracellularis genome within tissue samples (Jones et al., 1993).


  • Help confirm the disease causing agent
  • Shorten the time required to confirm a clinical diagnosis of Lawsonia infection.
  • Help ensure that animal colonies are free of Lawsonia bacteria
  • Early prevention of spread of the bacteria among a colony
  • Minimize personnel exposure to the bacteria
  • Safety monitoring of biological products and vaccines that derive from primates

Jones, G. F., Ward, G.E., Murtaugh, M.P., Lin, G. and Gebhart, C.J. (1993) Enhanced detection of intracellular organism of swine proliferative enteritis, ileal symbiont intracellularis in feces by polymerase chain reaction. J. Clin. Microbiol. 31:2611-2615.

Specimen requirements: 0.2 ml feces, or rectal swab, or 0.2 ml fresh, frozen or fixed ileum tissue.

Contact Zoologix if advice is needed to determine an appropriate specimen type for a specific diagnostic application. For specimen types not listed here, please contact Zoologix to confirm specimen acceptability and shipping instructions.

For all specimen types, if there will be a delay in shipping, or during very warm weather, refrigerate specimens until shipped and ship with a cold pack unless more stringent shipping requirements are specified. Frozen specimens should be shipped so as to remain frozen in transit. See shipping instructions for more information.

Turnaround time: 2 business days

Methodology: Qualitative real time PCR

Normal range: Nondetected

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