Conjunctival bacterial and fungal flora in healthy horses in the UK

Vet Ophthalmol. 2011 May;14(3):195-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1463-5224.2010.00867.x.


Objectives: To describe the bacterial and fungal flora of the normal conjunctiva of horses in the UK; to determine the effect of horse age, sex, geographic location, and housing on this flora; and to determine the most appropriate antimicrobial drug(s) for prophylactic treatment of corneal ulcers.

Animal studied: A total of 60 adult healthy horses were studied.

Procedure: Swabs of the conjunctiva were obtained from 60 horses housed in two locations within the UK. Specimens were cultured for aerobic bacteria and fungi, and sensitivity against six ophthalmic antimicrobials assessed. The effect of age, sex, location and housing on the frequency of microbial isolation was evaluated.

Results: Fifty-four bacterial isolates, representing thirteen genera of bacteria were cultured from 31 (52%) horses. The most frequently isolated bacterial species was Acinetobacter sp (17/32 horses). The majority of isolates (28/54: 52%) were gram-positive. Three genera of fungi (Mucor, Absidia and Aspergillus spp) were isolated from eight (13%) horses. There was no significant effect of geographic location, sex, age or housing on frequency of microbial isolation. Horses from which gram-negative bacteria were isolated were significantly older than horses from which gram-positive bacteria were isolated. High efficacy (greater than 90% of isolates sensitive in vitro) was displayed by chloramphenicol, gentamicin and tetracycline.

Conclusions: The microbial species isolated are comparable with studies performed in other countries, although the frequency of Acinetobacter isolation was higher which may reflect a geographic difference. The topical antimicrobials gentamicin and chloramphenicol are appropriate first line antimicrobials for empirical treatment of corneal ulcers in the UK.

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Conjunctiva / microbiology*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Female
  • Fungi / classification
  • Fungi / isolation & purification*
  • Horses / microbiology*
  • Housing, Animal
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics
  • United Kingdom


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents