Rhodococcus equi pneumonia is a worldwide infectious disease of major concern to the equine breeding industry. The disease typically manifests in foals as pyogranulomatous bronchopneumonia, resulting in significant morbidity and mortality. Inhalation of aerosolised virulent R. equi from the environment and intracellular replication within alveolar macrophages are essential components of the pathogenesis of R. equi pneumonia in the foal. Recently documented evidence of airborne transmission between foals indicates the potential for an alternative contagious route of disease transmission. In the first of this two-part review, the complexity of the host, pathogen and environmental interactions that underpin R. equi pneumonia will be discussed through an exploration of current understanding of the epidemiology and pathogenesis of R. equi pneumonia in the foal.
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