Streptococcus suis (Strep suis) is a gram-positive bacteria that typically colonises the throat, respiratory tract and gut of the pig and is common throughout the pork sector world wide.
In an interview with Farmscape, Dr Matheus Costa, an adjunct professor with the University of Saskatchewan's Western College of Veterinary Medicine and an Assistant Professor with the University of Minnesota, says a very important part of Streptococcus suis is that it is zoonotic disease.
"Humans can actually contract that infection and it can lead to very serious damage such as meningitis," Dr Costa explains, "in fact Streptococcus suis is one of the main causes of meningitis in southeast Asia.
"If you're dealing with pigs on a daily basis, if you have open cuts, for example on your hands, make sure you wear gloves to prevent anything from entering your blood stream. That's one of the ways Streptococcus suis can lead to disease is by gaining access to the bloodstream: through open cuts.
"Luckily, it's not very common in Canada and North America to ingest raw pork products and that's another way that Streptococcus suis can lead to disease: by ingesting raw pork products and live bacteria. That route of infection virtually doesn't exist in North America.
"If you're working with pigs and you see pigs that have died due to Streptococcus suis protect yourself."
Dr Costa says, while virtually every pig has Streptococcus suis, that doesn't mean they are actually diseased or will become sick. He says it will depend on the strain of Strep suis and the overall health of the pig.