Ky. Thoroughbred Farms Take Part in L. intracellularis Study

Allen Page, DVM, a PhD student at the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center, is conducting a study on Lawsonia intracellularis involving 14 Thoroughbred farms and 600 Thoroughbreds in Central Kentucky.

L. intracellularis is a bacterium that causes equine proliferative enteropathy (EPE), an emerging intestinal disease of horses that primarily affects weanling foals 4 to 7 months old.

Page began the L. intracellularis study in January 2012 with a goal of determining maternal antibodies' role in L. intracellularis infection and immunity. The study will be complete in February 2013.

The participating farms collect blood samples from the mares and foals at the time of the foal's birth. After that period, they collect blood samples from the foals monthly to monitor the decline in maternal antibodies in the foal's circulation.

"These farms are participating because they realize how much this research will benefit the industry," Page said. "One of the benefits of conducting research at the Gluck Center is access to the farms around us and how most of them are willing to help with research projects dealing with important and emerging issues."

Page said he is grateful for the farms that are participating due to the extra work required during the study. He expects the outcome to benefit the industry as a whole.

"If we show maternal antibodies do play a role in protection against L. intracellularis, there is a potential to administer hyperimmune plasma much like we do for Rhodococcus equi (a pulmonary disease in foals that causes abscesses to form in the lungs)," Page said. "If the antibodies are not important in immunity to L. intracellularis, then it'll allow us to look at other aspects of foal and weaning immunity that would suggest why horses in these age groups are uniquely susceptible to the bacterium."

Page, whose research is funded by the Pfizer Animal Health-Morris Animal Foundation (MAF) Veterinary Fellowship for Advanced Study and the Mt. Brilliant Family Foundation, is mentored by David Horohov, PhD, William Robert Mills chair and professor at the Gluck Center.

The Morris Animal Foundation funds this L. intracellularis study.

Jenny Blandford is the Foundation Coordinator at the Gluck Equine Research Center.

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