How to provide prophylaxis for Rhodococcus equi pneumonia

Macarena Sanz, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, came to the University of Kentucky (UK) Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center for her doctoral research in equine immunology and infectious diseases, which she completed in fall 2014, because of the distinguished program. In particular, she sought to work under David Horohov, PhD, interim chair of the Department of Veterinary Science at UK, interim director of the Gluck Equine Research Center, and Jes E. and Clementine M. Schlaikjer Endowed Chair at the Gluck Center, because of his worldwide recognition as a specialist in equine immunology. For the past several months after earning her doctoral degree, she has been a postdoctoral scholar at the Gluck Center where she continues her research.

The purpose of her primary research is to identify factors that affect foal susceptibility to Rhodococcus equi, a microorganism that causes pneumonia in young foals. There is currently a lack of knowledge about the disease because historically researchers have not had an appropriate experimental model to reproduce the disease.

“We have developed a neonatal foal model that mimics the outcome of natural infection,” Sanz said. “This model allows us to generate important information that improves the understanding of the relationship between foal age and susceptibility, and the neonatal foal immune response to the organism.”

The information gathered using this model is vital to develop preventative strategies. Currently, there is no vaccine against the disease and no way to make an early diagnosis in foals that will develop clinical pneumonia. Therefore, there are few treatment options for the endemic disease. Current options include routine ultrasonography coupled with antimicrobial treatment of any foal with pulmonary lesions, or antimicrobial treatment of all foals in the first three weeks of age.

“There has been an increase in antimicrobial resistance in the field which is not only a veterinary concern, but also a human concern, as Rhodococcus equi infects immunosuppressed people (such as those with AIDS or organ transplants),” Sanz said.

Sanz was also able to assist Amanda Adams, PhD, an assistant research professor at the Gluck Center, with research projects on geriatric horses and metabolic diseases. Sanz said she has learned about the importance of collaborative work and understanding the needs of the industry in her time at the Gluck Equine Research Center. After her postdoctoral scholar appointment, Sanz will join the equine faculty at Washington State University to continue her research in equine immunology and infectious disease.


21 minutes




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