An entire morning was devoted to this economically significant disease that infects young foals, often within hours of birth. Stephen Hines, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVP, of Washington State University, reported on the pathophysiology of the disease and prospects for preventing it.

Rhodococcus equi is a bacterium in the soil that can travel to, and multiply within, the foal's lungs, causing a deadly pneumonia if it is not caught and treated early. Hines described the possibility of developing vaccines with genetic targets that could help prevent the disease. It is notoriously difficult to test such vaccines, however, because of the expense of foal studies and the fact that veterinarians still aren't quite sure how foals acquire the disease--exposure could happen in a number of ways.

Hines reported on recent research revealing foals are interferon-gamma deficient at birth, suggesting a potential target for preventing disease with immunomodulators that seek to boost interferon-gamma levels.

He also said that since research has shown ingestion could be the foals' primary exposure to R. equi, the oral route could be the "key to inducing protective immunity."

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More