Placentitis-Causing Bacterium Gets Name

Each year throughout the United States, mares lose their pregnancies due to placentitis or an infection in the placenta. Placentitis causes lesions in the placenta, which provides nourishment from the mare to the fetus. When that nourishment is

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Each year throughout the United States, mares lose their pregnancies due to placentitis or an infection in the placenta. Placentitis causes lesions in the placenta, which provides nourishment from the mare to the fetus. When that nourishment is disrupted, the fetus might be compromised, or die.


Kentucky is about the only place where nocardioform placentitis is diagnosed as a cause of abortion each year, with some years having higher losses than others. Nocardioform placentitis is a distinct form of this disease characterized by the area that is damaged. Most placentitis cases are caused by an infection near the cervix. However, with nocardioform placentitis, the lesions are seen at the cranial or top of the placenta rather than at the cervix or bottom of the placenta. The lesions often extend onto the area where the uterus joins the uterine horns. The affected area usually is large, but isolated. The surface of the placenta is covered with a thick, brown exudate, which contains dead placental cells, white blood cells, and bacteria.


With regular placentitis, mares often will prematurely “bag up” and have a vaginal discharge; with nocardioform placentitis mares might bag up, but there usually is no vaginal discharge and therefore little outward sign that the mare has a problem.


At the University of Kentucky’s Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center, James M. Donahue, PhD, has been isolating the bacteria that cause nocardioform placentitis for more than 15 years, and he has saved bacteria from about 250 abortions. He noted that on group of bacteria associated with cases of placentitis and abortion were recovered from in about two-thirds of placentitis abortions. He sent isolates of that bacteria to David P. Labeda, PhD, at the USDA’s National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Illinois to undergo DNA relatedness studies. The species was found to be close to–but not exactly the same as–a bacterium named Crossiella cryophila. Therefore, the species most associated with nocardioform placentitis in Kentucky has tentatively been named Crossiella equi

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Written by:

Kimberly S. Brown is the editor of EquiManagement/EquiManagement.com and the group publisher of the Equine Health Network at Equine Network LLC.

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