Toxin Associated With C. perfringens Identified

Toxin Associated With <em>C. perfringens</em> Identified

Under certain conditions, horses can acquire C. perfringens that secretes toxins, such as NetF, that damage the gastrointestinal tract’s cells, resulting in enterocolitis and diarrhea.

Photo: The Horse Staff

As part of the biosecurity program at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, under the direction of Nathan Slovis, DVM, DACVIM, CHT, researchers are working to improve veterinarians’ ability to detect and prevent infectious disease transmission in the equine populations. In one such study, focusing on Clostridium perfringens, researchers recently identified the NetF toxin in foals in Kentucky; this toxin is found in other parts of the world, as well.

Normally, Clostridium species, including C. perfringens, are present within the gastrointestinal tract in low numbers and do not cause disease. However, under certain conditions, horses can acquire C. perfringens that secretes toxins, such as NetF, that damage the gastrointestinal tract’s cells, resulting in enterocolitis and diarrhea. Similar to dogs, foals infected with NetF toxin can develop hemorrhagic (bloody) diarrhea.

“This is exciting because now we have a test to look for NetF in horse feces,” Slovis said. The test is available through IDEXX Laboratory.

Interestingly, the team noted, NetF also was identified in the C. perfringens vaccine (UK MF 05/00) developed by two of the study researchers—Luke Fallon, DVM, and John Timoney, MVB, PhD, DSc, MRCVS—which is available for use in the United States upon approval of the state veterinarian. In a study that included 18 central Kentucky mares who had been vaccinated with that Clostridium vaccine, 12 (61%) showed a rise in antibodies for NetF. The vaccine was also designed to raise antibodies against the B2 toxin (CPB2), the enterotoxin (CPE), and the alpha toxin (CPA).

The study authors now intend to test whether increasing the amount of NetF in the vaccine will result in all mares showing increased immunity.

The study, “NetF-positive Clostridium perfringens in neonatal foal necrotizing enteritis in Kentucky,” will appear in an upcoming issue of the Veterinary Record

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