Nontuberculous Mycobacteria in Horses: A Narrative Review

Vet Sci. 2023 Jul 6;10(7):442. doi: 10.3390/vetsci10070442.


Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) infections are increasing in human and veterinary medicine. Although horses were initially thought to be resistant to NTM infection, reports of horses suffering from gastrointestinal, respiratory, and reproductive diseases associated with NTM have increased in the last few decades. The aim of this literature review is to summarize the mycobacteria species found in horses, describe clinical manifestations, diagnostic and treatment approaches, and public health concerns of NTM infection in horses. Clinical manifestations of NTM in horses include pulmonary disease, lymphadenitis, soft tissue, bone infections, and disseminated disease. NTM are also linked to granulomatous enteritis, placentitis, and abortions. Currently, diagnostic methods for NTM are limited and include acid-fast microscopy, bacterial cultures, species-specific PCR assays, and gene sequencing. In humans, NTM treatment guidelines are available, but their application appears inadequate and inconsistent. In horses, treatment guidelines for NTM infections are not available. NTM are a serious public health threat as 70% of people with untreated acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) have a chronic pulmonary disease caused by NTM. Thus, it is essential that we gain a better understanding of NTM infections in horses and their zoonotic potential.

Keywords: gastroenteritis; lymphadenitis; nontuberculous mycobacteria; placentitis; zoonotic.

Publication types

  • Review

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.