Objective—To determine whether the concentrations of airborne virulent Rhodococcus equi in stalls housing foals during the first 2 weeks after birth are associated with subsequent development of R equi pneumonia in those foals.
Sample—Air samples collected from foaling stalls and holding pens in which foals were housed during the first 2 weeks after birth.
Procedures—At a breeding farm in Texas, air samples (500 L each) were collected (January through May 2011) from stalls and pens in which 121 foals were housed on day 1 and on days 4, 7, and 14 after birth. For each sample, the concentration of airborne virulent R equi was determined with an immunoblot technique. The association between development of pneumonia and airborne R equi concentration was evaluated via random-effects Poisson regression analysis.
Results—Some air samples were not available for analysis. Of the 471 air samples collected from stalls that housed 121 foals, 90 (19%) contained virulent R equi. Twenty-four of 121 (20%) foals developed R equi pneumonia. Concentrations of virulent R equi in air samples from stalls housing foals that developed R equi pneumonia were significantly higher than those in samples from stalls housing foals that did not develop pneumonia. Accounting for disease effects, air sample concentrations of virulent R equi did not differ significantly by day after birth or by month of birth.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Exposure of foals to airborne virulent R equi during the first 2 weeks after birth was significantly (and likely causally) associated with development of R equi pneumonia.