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Exp Lung Res. 2016;42(1):1-13. doi: 10.3109/01902148.2015.1123327. Epub 2016 Jan 14.

Characterization of surfactant alterations in pigs infected with Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae.

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a Clinic of Swine and Small Ruminants, Forensic Medicine and Ambulatory Service , University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover , Hannover , Germany.
b Institute of Functional and Applied Anatomy , Hannover Medical School , Hannover , Germany.
c Biomedical Research in Endstage und Obstructive Lung Disease Hannover (BREATH) , Member of the German Center for Lung Research (DZL) , REBIRTH Cluster of Excellence, Hannover , Germany.
d Department of Pediatric Pulmonology and Neonatology , Hannover Medical School , Hannover , Germany.
e University Clinic for Swine , Department for Farm Animals and Veterinary Public Health, University of Veterinary Medicine , Vienna , Austria.



Surfactant, a surface active complex of phospholipids and proteins located at the inner surface of alveoli and small conducting airways is necessary for breathing. Bacterial respiratory tract infections frequently lead to surfactant alterations and to an increase in surface tension. Pigs, often used in experimental lung research, could suffer from severe pleuropneumonia, a highly contagious disease often characterized by sudden onset, short clinical course, high morbidity, and high mortality. It is caused by the gram-negative bacterium Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae (A.pp.). This study tests the hypothesis that also in the subacute stage pathomorphological lung alterations are accompanied with increased inactive surfactant components. Clinical lung scores, functional and ultrastructural analysis of porcine surfactant were performed in pigs before infection and in the subacute state of infection. Clinical signs were determined using inter alia different subscores. Surfactant was isolated from the BALF for functional and quantitative ultrastructural studies.


In the subacute stage clinical, ultrosonographic and radiographic scores as well as the overall Respiratory Health Score showed significantly higher values than before infection. However, surfactant surprisingly contained more active surfactant subtypes and significantly less inactive subtypes such as unilamellar vesicles. The quantity of multilamellar vesicles with unclear function did not differ. The minimal surface tension of surfactant before and after infection was comparable.


Thus, in spite of continued severe lung tissue alterations the surfactant system show signs of recovery. This may be the result of an effective adaption to inflammatory lung disorders caused by swine-specific pathogens.


BAL; brochoalveolar lavage fluid; clinical and lung lesion score; infection; lung; minimal surface tension; pig; stereology; surfactant

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