Researchers in the Netherlands have completed further research into developing an effective vaccine for the bacteria Rhodococcus equi, which is known to cause pneumonia and other sometimes fatal infections in young foals. A press release from Merck Animal Health indicated that a research team based at the Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute (GBB) of the University of Groningen recently published the results of their research in PLoS Pathogens.

R. equi is a soil bacterium and, since manure is very frequently contaminated with R. equi from healthy adults, bacterial numbers in the soil increase,” the release read. “In horse breeding farms with a high population of animals and conditions are dry and dusty, R. equi can become aerosolized and is sometimes inhaled into the lungs. Due to the presence of R. equi in the soil and dust outside, the disease is a recurring problem. An effective vaccine for foals could be a solution for environments where large numbers of foals are raised and the risk of infection is high.”

The press release explained that Robert van der Geize, a molecular biologist at GBB, worked with a team of researchers to examine R. equi for virulence factors and attenuation targets in the bacterium. “They found these factors in a number of genes responsible for steroid metabolism, but when these genes are defective, this specific metabolic process cannot occur, rendering the pathogen ineffective,” the release said.

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