Main content area

An Inherited Lower Motor Neuron Disease of Pigs: Clinical Signs in Two Litters and Pathology of an Affected Pig

O'Toole, Donal, Ingram, James, Welch, Val, Bardsley, Katie, Haven, Tom, Nunamaker, Carol, Wells, Gerald
Journal of veterinary diagnostic investigation 1994 v.6 no.1 pp. 62-71
adults, ataxia (disorder), atrophy, breeding, droplets, exercise, gilts, herds, hindlimbs, histopathology, immunohistochemistry, joints (animal), lipids, motor neurons, muscles, nerve tissue, neurodegenerative diseases, paresis, peripheral nerves, piglets, skeletal muscle, sows, spinal cord, staining, swine diseases, England, Wyoming
A chronic progressive neurodegeneration, called hereditary porcine neuronal system degeneration (HPNSD), was recognized in a swine herd in Devon, England. Adult pigs that were presumed carriers of the dominantly inherited trait for HPNSD were transferred from England, where a breeding colony was maintained for 9 years, to the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory (WSVL) for study. Two litters of affected piglets were born to 2 carrier sows at the WSVL. Clinical signs of muscular tremors, paresis, or ataxia developed at 12–59 days of age in 4 of 6 liveborn pigs. Three other pigs were stillborn. In the 4 affected livebom pigs, clinical signs progressed and included symmetrical (3 pigs) or asymmetrical (1 pig) posterior paresis, bilateral knuckling of metatarsal-phalangeal or carpal joints, poor exercise tolerance, and in 1 pig, marked hind limb hypermetria. A 34-kg gilt exhibiting clinical signs of muscular tremors and posterior paresis and clinical signs for 22 days was euthanized and examined postmortem at 83 days of age. Apart from decubitus ulcers, gross lesions were absent. Microscopically, perikaryal vacuolation and osmiophilic lipid droplets were observed in atrophic alpha motor neurons in the spinal cord. There was axonal (Wallerian) degeneration in sulcomarginal and dorsal spinocerebellar tracts. Axonal degeneration also involved ventral but not dorsal spinal nerve roots, and was present in eight peripheral nerves sampled for histopathology. Changes in skeletal muscles were consistent with denervation atrophy and were most pronounced in M. tibialis cranialis of the 6 muscles sampled. Immunohistochemical staining of spinal cord for phosphorylated and nonphosphorylated neurofilaments did not reveal abnormal patterns, unlike some well-characterized inherited motor neuron diseases in other species.