Clostridium difficile

Clostridium difficile disease is characterized by diarrhea in piglets within first of a few hours of birth.

Alternative names: Clostridial diseases


Clostridium difficile disease is characterized by diarrhea in neonatal within the first week of life; especially within just few hours of birth.

Clostridium is a Gram positive of large size that produces spores. It is present in the intestine of all pigs. It multiplies very rapidly and it produces toxins that cause diarrhea. The course of the disease is very short: piglets normally become infected during first hours postpartum, so it sometimes seems they were born with diarrhea.

In humans the disease produces high mortality. It is present in hospital patients who are under antibiotic treatment causing a disruption of the intestinal bacterial flora. This produces a toxic megacolon that does not respond to antibiotic treatment. It is important to note that the disease in humans is not related to swine. In swine, the role of antibiotic use and C. difficile infections does not appear to be a significant predisposing factor.

Clostridium difficile is a spore forming bacteria and these spores are quite resistant to environmental temperature changes as well as resistant to some disinfectants.


Sows, nursery and fattening

  • None.

Lactating piglets

  • Diarrhea with or without blood.
  • Diarrhea during their first day of life and up to the 7th day.
  • Colon edema.
  • Some piglets die.
  • Decreased growth rate.

Causes / Contributing Factors

  • A high number of C. difficile spores in the environment.
  • Unknown factors.
  • Changes in the intestinal microbiota.
  • Although the disease is present in humans hospitalized under antibiotic treatment, the use of antibiotics in pigs does not appear to contribute significantly to the clinical condition, especially in piglets under 2 days.


  • Clinical signs and post-mortem lesions.
  • Not all C. difficile infections cause mesocolonic edema and not all mesocolonic edemas are caused by C. difficile.
  • Bacterial culture.
  • PCR.
  • Detection of toxin in feces (often via ELISA).



  • Antibiotics can be used to treat affected piglets.
  • Sow feed may be medicated 14 days before farrow  to minimize farrowing room contamination with Clostridia.