Risk Factors Associated With R. equi Pneumonia

There was no association between disease development and dam age or plasma antibody concentrations, among other factors.
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Risk Factors Associated with Pneumonia
Most foals are exposed to R. equi in their first few days or weeks of life. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse
Rhodococcus equi is a common cause of bacterial pneumonia in foals 1 to 3 months old. Despite its prevalence, researchers still don’t know why some foals on a farm contract it while others don’t, or why it will affect a farm’s foal crop one year but not the next.

So researchers from Texas A&M University’s (TAMU) College of Veterinary Medicine and Biological Sciences, in College Station, performed a retrospective study of an affected farm to find out. Michelle Coleman, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, assistant professor of Large Animal Internal Medicine at TAMU, presented their results at the 2016 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 3-7 in Orlando, Florida.

Most foals are exposed to R. equi in their first few days or weeks of life, but only some develop and show signs of disease, said Coleman. If researchers could identify risk factors for foals developing R. equi, they could help reduce the burden of disease on the animal, farm, personnel, and veterinarian.

In general, the higher a farm’s stocking density, the greater the risk for clinical R. equi cases. Management practices likely play a role in R. equi transmission. The bacteria spread particularly quickly on large farms, most notably through the air (via secretions from coughing and sneezing or in airborne dust)

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Nettie Liburt, MS, PhD, PAS, is an equine nutritionist based on Long Island, New York. She is a graduate of Rutgers University, where she studied equine exercise physiology and nutrition. Liburt is a member of the Equine Science Society.

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