An outbreak of Lawsonia intracellularis infection in rabbits, which occurred in 1988 in Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil, is reported. The disease had an acute course (24-48 hours) with clinical signs characterized by brownish or green diarrhea and dehydration. Occasionally, the animals died one day after the onset of diarrhea, without showing any other clinical signs. At necropsy, the ileum was prominent, firm and had a thickened wall; it was dilated in the caudal direction and had a somewhat reticulated appearance, perceptible through the serosa. The thickened mucous membrane had finely corrugated aspect and a shiny surface. The ileocecal valve and surrounding areas were slightly edematous and irregular. The Peyer's patches were sometimes more evident. There was moderate enlargement of the mesenteric lymph nodes. The histological examination revealed different degrees of hyperplasia of the epithelial cells of intestinal crypts consisting of poorly differentiated, hyperchromatic cells with high mitotic index, arranged in a pseudostratified layer which, in some cases, reached the apical portions of the villi. The inflammatory infiltrate between the hyperplastic epithelial cells was composed of lymphocytes, plasma cells, macrophages, some eosinophils and globular leukocytes. Silver impregnation revealed large numbers of bacteria with morphology of the genus Lawsonia in the apical pole of cryptal enterocytes. These bacteria reacted positively to a Lawsonia intracellularis polyclonal antibody by the avidin-biotin immunohistochemistry method.
Lawsonia intracellularis; proliferative enteropathy; rabbits; Brazil