Neonatal pigs from three herds of pigs were somnolent and inappetent and had microscopic lesions characterised by severe meningoencephalitis, necrotic interstitial pneumonia and gastric muscular inflammation. Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) infection was diagnosed and confirmed by virus isolation, fluorescent antibody examination of frozen lung sections, serology, immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridisation. Each herd had a history of PRRSV infection and was using or had used a modified-live vaccine. The isolates from the affected pigs were genetically distinct from the modified-live vaccine strain of the virus when compared by restriction enzyme analysis and nucleotide sequencing of PRRSV open reading frames 5 and 6. The virus was identified in macrophages or microglia of brain lesions by immunohistochemical staining of brain sections with an anti-PRRSV monoclonal antibody and an anti-macrophage antibody. The replication of the virus in the brain was verified by in situ hybridisation. The meningoencephalitis induced by the virus in pigs from each of the herds was unusually severe and the brain lesions were atypical when compared with other descriptions of encephalitis induced by the virus, which should therefore be considered as a possible diagnosis for neonatal pigs with severe meningoencephalitis. In addition, field isolates of the virus which are capable of causing disease can emerge and coexist with modified-live vaccine virus in some pig herds.