Opsonic capacity of foal serum for the two neonatal pathogens Escherichia coli and Actinobacillus equuli

Equine Vet J. 2001 Nov;33(7):670-5. doi: 10.2746/042516401776249381.


Two of the most commonly isolated foal pathogens are Escherichia coli and Actinobacillus equuli. The hypothesis tested in this study was that young foals carry a lower opsonic capacity for these bacteria compared to adult horses. A flow-cytometric method for the phagocytosis of these by equine neutrophils was established. The opsonic capacity of serum from healthy foals from birth to age 6 weeks was evaluated and related to the concentrations of IgGa and IgGb. Phagocytosis of yeast was used as a control. Serum was required for phagocytosis, with higher concentrations for E. coli than for A. equuli. Ingestion of colostrum led to a significantly higher serum opsonic capacity. After that, there was no consistent age-related trend for opsonic capacity for the different microbes. Foal serum showed similar or higher opsonisation of E. coli and A. equuli compared to serum from mature individuals. During the studied period, the predominance among IgG subisotypes switched from IgGb to IgGa. Although the overall correlation between concentrations of IgG subisotypes and serum opsonic capacity was poor, sera with IgGb levels below 1.9 mg/ml induced lower opsonisation of E. coli and yeast, but not of A. equuli. Complement activation was important for opsonisation of all tested microbes. The results of this study are significant to the understanding of a key immunological facet in the pathophysiology of equine neonatal septicaemia in clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actinobacillus / immunology*
  • Actinobacillus Infections / immunology
  • Actinobacillus Infections / veterinary
  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn / blood
  • Animals, Newborn / immunology*
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / immunology
  • Colostrum / immunology
  • Complement Activation
  • Escherichia coli / immunology*
  • Escherichia coli Infections / immunology
  • Escherichia coli Infections / veterinary
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry / veterinary
  • Horse Diseases / immunology
  • Horse Diseases / microbiology
  • Horses
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood*
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Neutrophils / immunology
  • Opsonin Proteins / blood*
  • Opsonin Proteins / immunology
  • Phagocytosis / immunology
  • Sepsis / immunology
  • Sepsis / veterinary


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Opsonin Proteins