Researchers Study Potential R. equi Vaccine

Vaccinating mares against the polysaccharide poly-N-acetyl glucosamine appears to effectively protect foals against R. equi pneumonia, researchers found.
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R. equi
Vaccinating mares against the polysaccharide poly-N-acetyl glucosamine appears to effectively protect foals against R. equi pneumonia, researchers found. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Rhodococcus equi (R. equi) is the most serious cause of pneumonia in 1- to 4-month-old foals. It is expensive to treat and sometimes fatal, yet no vaccine to protect against the pathogen exists.

So researchers from Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences investigated whether a newly developed vaccine administered to mares during pregnancy could protect their foals from R. equi pneumonia. Noah Cohen, VMD, MPH, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, professor of large animal internal medicine, presented their findings at the 2017 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Nov. 17-21 in San Antonio, Texas.

R. equi is a Gram-positive bacterium found in soil. Grazing animals can ingest spores and become infected, but foals generally get it after they inhale R. equi-laden particles. Treatment is prolonged and, therefore, in addition to risks of mortality, the disease has serious economic

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Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

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