Serum-resistance in Haemophilus parasuis is associated with systemic disease in swine.
ABSTRACT Haemophilus parasuis can cause pneumonia and systemic disease in swine but it is also a coloniser of the upper respiratory tract of healthy pigs. These differences in pathogenicity are probably the result of diverse mechanisms of virulence in different strains. Since serum-resistance is a feature frequently found in systemic pathogens, 31 H. parasuis strains of different clinical origin were tested and a variety of serum susceptibility levels detected. Nasal strains from healthy piglets were sensitive to the bactericidal effect of the serum, while systemic strains were mainly resistant. The pulmonary strains included both serum-sensitive and serum-resistant strains. Interestingly, the serum-resistant pulmonary strains were isolated from animals with systemic lesions. Heat-treatment of the sera abolished the bactericidal activity, indicating that complement is a key factor in this effect. Equivalent susceptibility was observed with rabbit and porcine sera, and the presence of H. parasuis specific antibodies did not increase the killing of the strains by serum. In an attempt to associate serum-resistance to a surface determinant of the bacteria, agglutination in acriflavine was tested but no direct link with serum susceptibility was found. The results indicate that serum-resistance is a virulence mechanism in H. parasuis.