A descriptive report of the selenium distribution in tissues from pigs with mulberry heart disease (MHD)

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Background: Mulberry Heart Disease (MHD) is a condition affecting mainly young pigs in excellent body condition. Feed efficient pigs showing high average daily gains are more likely to be affected. MHD has been described as a challenge in Norwegian pig production over the last decade despite abundant supplies of vitamin E, and selenium (Se) close to the upper limits set by the EU. From 2015 to 2017, samples from documented MHD field cases were collected and compared with controls regarding post mortem findings and Se concentrations in numerous internal and external organs were determined in order to characterize the Se distribution, and to identify any differences between MHD cases and controls. Case presentation: Eight MHD cases from commercial farms and a pet pig producer located in the South West and East of Norway, and three control animals originating from these farms were included in this study. MHD cases and controls were weaned pigs with an average bodyweight (BW) of 17 kg (range 9 to 46 kg BW), with the exception of one pet piglet (Mangalica, 6 kg BW) that had only received sow milk. Selenium was determined in samples from the cardiovascular, digestive, immune, endocrine, integumentary, muscular, respiratory and urinary systems using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (QQQ ICP-MS). All pigs with MHD suffered sudden deaths. Control animals were euthanized without being bled prior to necropsy and sampling. Significantly different mean Se concentrations between MHD cases and controls were found in cardiac samples as well as almost all skeletal muscles (P < 0.05). Based on the samples from ten different muscles (except the cardiac samples), mean Se concentrations in MHD cases were 0.34 (0.01) mg/ kg DM compared with 0.65 (0.02) mg/ kg DM in control pigs (P < 0.0001). In cardiac samples, mean Se concentrations from MHD cases were 0.87 (0.02) mg/ kg DM vs. 1.12 (0.04) mg/ kg DM (P < 0.0001). Additionally, significantly lower Se concentrations compared with controls were found in the liver as well as the caecum, duodenum, gastric ventricle, jejunum, kidney, skin and thymus samples. Conclusions: Based on the present work, the current common practice regarding tissue analyses in MHD cases could be refined to include other organs than liver and heart. The evident differences in mean Se concentrations in 9 out of 10 samples from the muscular system, could make such samples relevant for complementary measurements of Se concentrations to help confirm the MHD diagnosis. We find it interesting that although our limited number of sampled pigs are different in terms of genetics, size and feeding regimes, the variation of Se concentrations in a given organ was low between MHD cases. Since this report includes a limited number of MHD cases and controls, our results should be corroborated by a controlled, larger study.




Oropeza-Moe, M., Falk, M., Vollset, M., Wisløff, H., Bernhoft, A., Framstad, T., & Salbu, B. (2019). A descriptive report of the selenium distribution in tissues from pigs with mulberry heart disease (MHD). Porcine Health Management, 5(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40813-019-0124-y

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