RCMS Research Chair in Meat Safety

Study of bacterial and viral co-infections

Characterization of the clinical importance of rotavirus A, B, C in piglet diarrhea and its influence on the presence of foodborne pathogens on carcasses


Although bacterial pathogens such as E. coli and parasites such as Eimeria are often associated with cases of diarrhea in piglets, viruses such as group A, B and C rotaviruses are also suspected to play a significant but likely underappreciated role, either alone or in conjunction with other agents. In fact, group A rotavirus (RVA) are some of the most frequently detected viral agents in diarrheic piglets from 1 to 8 weeks of age, but few data are available in Quebec. In turn, according to some recent studies abroad, rotavirus group B and C (RVB and RVC) seem to show a high prevalence in sick piglets, particularly in co-infection with RVA. It is therefore likely that RVB and RVC have a significant role as causative agents in viral diarrhea in piglets. However, there is a knowledge gap regarding the zoonotic potential and genetic diversity of RVB and RVC as well as their role in this pathology in young piglets, either as sole agents or in multiple microbial infections (bacteria, viruses, parasites). In addition, the impact of diarrhea problems in farm on the risk of contamination of slaughter carcasses has never been studied previously.


Rotavirus (A, B, C) play an important role in piglet diarrhea, particularly in microbial co-infections. In addition, diarrheic episodes in young piglets may increase the risk of carcass contamination at the slaughterhouse with various zoonotic pathogens (ex.: Salmonella, Hepatitis E virus, RVA).


Determine the clinical role, asymptomatic carriage and the zoonotic potential of rotavirus A, B, C involved in diarrhea in piglets (alone or in co-infection). Rotavirus strains detected will also be genetically characterized in order to reveal viral diversity and possibly correlate virulence to specific strains. To assess the impact of enteric microbial infections, the digestive viral flora during episodes of diarrhea in pigs will be examined. Finally, piglets with diarrhea on farm will be monitored during the various stages of production including slaughter to assess their microbial excretion, especially for food pathogens, and to determine the risk of contamination of carcasses after a diarrheic episode.


Nicolas Nantel-Fortier, PhD, supervisor Julie Brassard, cosupervisor Ann Letellier

Virginie Lachapelle, phD, supervisor Yvan L’Homme, cosupervisors Ann Letellier and Julie Brassard

Financial partners

F. Ménard Inc. 

Scientific partners