Ten cases of Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis infections linked to equine abortions in Japan, 2018-2019

Vet Med Sci. 2021 May;7(3):621-625. doi: 10.1002/vms3.411. Epub 2020 Dec 18.


Bacterial placentitis in horses commonly results in abortion, premature birth or compromised neonatal foal health. Although mycobacterial infections are generally uncommon in horses, 10 equine abortion cases caused by Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis (MAH) infections occurred between 2018 and 2019 in Japan. They occurred on seven Thoroughbred horse farms in the Hidaka district of Hokkaido, but direct contact among the mares on different farms was not recorded. Most cases were characterized by extensive pathological lesions of the placenta, which are not typical in cases of common pathogenic bacteria such as Streptococcus zooepidemicus and Escherichia coli. All abortions featured white-yellow exudates on the surface of the placenta. Mycobacterial granuloma formations were histologically found in the placenta and fetal organs, and acid-fast bacteria were isolated from the placenta, fetal samples (heart, lung, liver, kidney, spleen and stomach contents) or uterine lavage fluid. The greatest number of bacteria was isolated from necrotic lesions on the placenta, which could be an important site for bacterial isolation in mycobacterial equine abortions. The isolates were identified as MAH based on internal genome sequences. In variable number tandem repeat analysis, all patterns of the strains were identical. Single nucleotide polymorphism analysis of the core genome grouped all strains in the II-a/SC3 subcluster. Both results reveal that these strains share the same genetic background, suggesting that the horses had been infected by the same unknown contagious source.

Keywords: Mycobacterium avium complex; aborted fetus; horses; placenta diseases.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Veterinary / microbiology*
  • Animals
  • Horse Diseases / microbiology*
  • Horses
  • Japan
  • Mycobacterium / physiology*
  • Mycobacterium Infections / microbiology
  • Mycobacterium Infections / veterinary*

Supplementary concepts

  • Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis