Efficacy of Tea Tree Oil in the Treatment of Equine Streptothricosis

J Equine Vet Sci. 2019 Aug;79:79-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jevs.2019.05.011. Epub 2019 May 16.


Streptothricosis is a dermatitis characterized by matted tufts of hair and coalescing, pustular crusts that affects many livestock species, including horses. It results from cutaneous infection by the actinobacterium Dermatophilus congolensis. For economic reasons, the ailment is often treated with commercially available over-the-counter (OTC) products or home remedies rather than prescribed medications. This study aimed to determine the efficacy of tea tree oil (TTO), an essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia, as an OTC treatment for streptothricosis. Bacteria were isolated from presumptive streptothricosis lesions on horses at a farm in Forest, Virginia. These isolates were microbiologically and genetically confirmed to be D. congolensis. The antimicrobial activity of TTO against D. congolensis isolates was determined by minimum inhibitory concentration and disc diffusion assays and compared with three OTC products advertised specifically for the treatment of "rain rot," a colloquial term for streptothricosis. A 1% TTO solution (v/v, in baby oil) and the three selected OTC products were applied to equine streptothricosis lesions to evaluate in vivo resolution of the lesions. Tea tree oil exhibited antimicrobial behavior against D. congolensis in vitro and produced marked improvement of streptothricosis lesions in vivo. These results have implications for development of TTO as a possible treatment for streptothricosis.

Keywords: Dermatophilus congolensis; Melaleuca alternifolia; Rain rot; Streptothricosis; Tea tree oil.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents*
  • Horses
  • Melaleuca*
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests / veterinary
  • Tea Tree Oil*
  • Virginia


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Tea Tree Oil