The effect of different fecal sample weights on the detection of Salmonella enterica in swine feces was examined. Sample weights evaluated were rectal swabs and fecal samples weighing 1 g, 10 g, and 25 g. Comparisons were made on matched fecal samples obtained from individual pigs housed on 2 commercial swine farms in North Carolina. Relative sensitivity (number of positive pigs per fecal weight category/number positive in all weight categories) increased (P < 0.001) with fecal sample weight, and ranged from 9% for rectal swabs to 78% for 25-g samples. Stomaching of fecal samples did not affect detection of S. enterica. These observations demonstrate that fecal sample weight can markedly influence estimates of prevalence of S. enterica in epidemiologic studies. Failure to consider the imperfect sensitivity of bacterial culture in the design and interpretation of epidemiologic studies will lead to underestimation of prevalence and reduced power to detect the presence of S. enterica - infected herds.
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