Objective—To determine whether mares are a clinically important source of Rhodococcus equi for their foals.
Sample Population—171 mares and 171 foals from a farm in Kentucky (evaluated during 2004 and 2005).
Procedures—At 4 time points (2 before and 2 after parturition), the total concentration of R equi and concentration of virulent R equi were determined in fecal specimens from mares by use of quantitative bacteriologic culture and a colony immunoblot technique, respectively. These concentrations for mares of foals that developed R equi–associated pneumonia and for mares with unaffected foals were compared. Data for each year were analyzed separately.
Results—R equi–associated pneumonia developed in 53 of 171 (31%) foals. Fecal shedding of virulent R equi was detected in at least 1 time point for every mare; bacteriologic culture results were positive for 62 of 171 (36%) mares at all time points. However, compared with dams of unaffected foals, fecal concentrations of total or virulent R equi in dams of foals with R equi–associated pneumonia were not significantly different.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results indicate that dams of foals with R equi–associated pneumonia did not shed more R equi in feces than dams of unaffected foals; therefore, R equi infection in foals was not associated with comparatively greater fecal shedding by their dams. However, detection of virulent R equi in the feces of all mares during at least 1 time point suggests that mares can be an important source of R equi for the surrounding environment.