The University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory offers real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR, a type of DNA analysis) assay testing for Rhodococcus equi. The test can detect the VaPA virulence gene (plasmid) in R. equi bacterial isolates by PCR.

R. equi is a common cause of bacterial pneumonia in foals from birth up to 4 to 6 months old.

The UKVDL test offered to help diagnose R. equi in foals includes:

  1. Foal necropsy (includes all ancillary testing, everything listed below), $80
  2. Cytology, transtracheal aspirate (TTA)/bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), $65
  3. Bacteriological culture, TTA/BAL, other respiratory specimen, $17 per specimen
  4. Antibiotic susceptibility testing, isolate, $10 per isolate
  5. Real-time PCR, TTA/BAL other respiratory specimen*, $27 per specimen. 
    *This includes the detection of R. equi and presence of the VapA virulence gene (plasmid).

A one-time $10 accession fee will be accessed per case.

These services are associated with the lab’s Cytology and Necropsy testing.

A cytology test at most labs involves a smear prep and a simple cell count by a lab technician. UKVDL’s full cytology includes slide preparation and any necessary special staining by the lab’s clinical pathology section and a full report by a pathologist board-certified or board-eligible by the American College of Veterinary Pathologists. These reports can be up to two pages long and include a summary diagnosis and recommendations for further investigation (e.g., take a biopsy, other studies).

UKVDL’s necropsy service price is capped for any and all tests run, with the exception of toxicology ($200 maximum is included). For example, at a capped fee of $90 on a dead/aborted foal, the lab’s client receives a full gross necropsy; histopathology with special stains as needed; any and all microbiology (bacteriology, mycology, virology, molecular biology) no matter the number of tissues, cultures, or sensitivities; parasitology and clinical pathology as needed; serology (e.g., heart blood test for lepto antibodies); and any testing referred out to other labs. The bottom line is if animals are dying, the UKVDL spares no expense to do whatever is necessary to arrive at a definitive diagnosis. This will help the lab’s clients to know what the health risks might be to exposed animals and also serves as a broad-based disease surveillance system for animal diseases in Kentucky.

Contact Erdal Erol, UKVDL head of microbiology, with any questions at 859/257-8283 or

Craig Carter, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVPM DSNAP, Director of the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory provided this information.

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