Bacterial infection of the lower respiratory tract in 34 horses

Aust Vet J. 2000 Aug;78(8):549-59. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-0813.2000.tb11901.x.


Objective: To investigate associations between the bacteriology and aspects of history, clinical presentation, outcome and pathology of lower respiratory tract disease of 34 horses.

Procedure: Detailed aerobic and anaerobic bacteriological investigations were performed on clinical specimens from horses with pneumonia, lung abscessation and necrotic pneumonia with or without pleurisy in an attempt to identify those bacteria that might contribute to the initiation and progression of infection.

Results: Bacteria were cultured from 33 of the 34 horses. In ten cases, only aerobic/facultatively anaerobic isolates were cultured while aerobic/facultatively anaerobic bacteria and obligately anaerobic bacteria were isolated in the other 23 cases. Moderate to large numbers of anaerobic bacteria were isolated only when the estimated duration of illness was at least five days. Bacteria were not cultured from 12 of the pleural fluid samples but were always cultured from pulmonary samples (either transtracheal aspirates from live horses or pulmonary lesions at necropsy). Streptococcus equi subsp zooepidemicus was isolated in the three cases where only one bacterial species was cultured. In the other 30 cases, multiple species were isolated. These included most often and in greatest numbers, Streptococcus equi subsp zooepidemicus, Pasteurellaceae, Escherichia coli, anaerobic cocci, Eubacterium fossor, Bacteroides tectum, Prevotella heparinolytica, Fusobacterium spp, and pigmented members of the genera Prevotella and Porphyromonas. Aerobic/facultatively anaerobic organisms were isolated from 97% of horses, while obligately anaerobic organisms were cultured from 68% of horses.

Conclusion: There was no association between the isolation of any specific bacterium and the outcome of disease. However, obligately anaerobic bacteria (such as anaerobic cocci, Bacteroides tectum, P heparinolytica and Fusobacterium spp) and the facultatively anaerobic species Escherichia coli, were recovered more commonly from horses that died or were euthanased than from those that survived. There was an association between failure of horses to recover from pleuropneumonia and delay in diagnosis and initiation of treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria, Anaerobic / drug effects*
  • Bacteria, Anaerobic / isolation & purification*
  • Female
  • Horse Diseases / drug therapy
  • Horse Diseases / microbiology*
  • Horse Diseases / pathology
  • Horses
  • Male
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • New South Wales
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / drug therapy
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / microbiology
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / pathology
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / veterinary*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome