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Transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE)

Transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) is a viral disease that was common until the 1990s. The disease is caused by a coronavirus that affects the small intestine and causes vomiting and severe diarrhea in pigs of any age. The virus destroys the epithelial cells of the villi of the small intestine, causing serious villous atrophy, malabsorption, osmotic diarrhea and dehydration. The incubation period is less than 18 hours.

Clinical Signs +

In unvaccinated herds, vomiting is often the first symptom, followed by severe watery diarrhea, dehydration and excessive thirst. Newborn feces often contain undigested curdled milk. Mortality is close to 100% in piglets less than one week old, while in pigs older than one month, mortality is rare. Pregnant sows sometimes miscarry, and lactating sows often have vomiting, diarrhea and agalactia. Diarrhea lasts for less than 5 days in surviving piglets, although sometimes for a shorter period in older pigs.

Transmission +

Infection spreads rapidly through aerosols or contact. Severe epidemics are most common in winter, as the virus survives at low temperatures.

Diagnosis +

Histological exam and immunofluorescene exam of the small intestine help to obtain confirmation by identifying typical lesions and the presence of transmissible gastroenteritis viral antibodies. Detection of the virus by PCR is also often used.

Treatment +

There is no specific treatment. An increased temperature on the premises to minimize body heat loss and the use of electrolyte solutions to fight dehydration are recommended. Exposing sows to the virus (feedback) adequately increases immunity to protect newborns. The vaccination of pigs in herds free from TGE may not be economically beneficial, as vaccines do not result in full immunity. 

Your veterinary doctor is the best source of recommendations that are truly suited to your farm.

Prevention +

Active infection in the intestine by a virulent virus creates protective immunity for 6 to 18 months. As the TGE virus is easily spread during an epidemic by people, animals and objects, special care must be taken to prevent it from spreading to unexposed groups of pigs and neighbouring farms. Biosecurity is therefore the key to prevention.


1 Merck Veterinary Manual, Third Edition