Evaluation of fetal infection and abortion in pregnant ponies experimentally infected with Ehrlichia risticii

Maureen T. Long From the Departments of Veterinary Medicine (Lone, Goetz, Lock, Foreman, Baker) and Pathobiology (Kakoma, Whiteley, Holland), College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801.

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Thomas E. Goetz From the Departments of Veterinary Medicine (Lone, Goetz, Lock, Foreman, Baker) and Pathobiology (Kakoma, Whiteley, Holland), College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801.

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Ibulaimu Kakoma From the Departments of Veterinary Medicine (Lone, Goetz, Lock, Foreman, Baker) and Pathobiology (Kakoma, Whiteley, Holland), College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801.

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Herbert E. Whiteley From the Departments of Veterinary Medicine (Lone, Goetz, Lock, Foreman, Baker) and Pathobiology (Kakoma, Whiteley, Holland), College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801.

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Theodore E. Lock From the Departments of Veterinary Medicine (Lone, Goetz, Lock, Foreman, Baker) and Pathobiology (Kakoma, Whiteley, Holland), College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801.

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Cynthia J. Holland From the Departments of Veterinary Medicine (Lone, Goetz, Lock, Foreman, Baker) and Pathobiology (Kakoma, Whiteley, Holland), College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801.

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Jonathan H. Foreman From the Departments of Veterinary Medicine (Lone, Goetz, Lock, Foreman, Baker) and Pathobiology (Kakoma, Whiteley, Holland), College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801.

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Gordon J. Baker From the Departments of Veterinary Medicine (Lone, Goetz, Lock, Foreman, Baker) and Pathobiology (Kakoma, Whiteley, Holland), College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801.

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SUMMARY

Fetal infectivity of Ehrlichia risticii was investigated in 19 ponies that were E risticii negative on the basis of results of an indirect fluorescent antibody (ifa) test. Thirteen pregnant ponies were infected by iv administration of E risticii between 90 and 180 days of gestation. Six pregnant ponies served as noninfected controls. Each infected pony had clinical signs of equine monocytic ehrlichiosis, was confirmed to be ehrlichemic, and developed an ifa titer to E risticii. Two infected ponies became recumbent, were unresponsive to supportive care, and were euthanatized. After recovery from clinical illness, the remaining ponies were observed throughout gestation for reproductive abnormalities. On abortion, each fetus was necropsied and tissue specimens from the liver, bone marrow, spleen, colon, and mesenteric lymph nodes were inoculated into canine monocyte cell cultures. Six infected ponies aborted at a mean 217 days of gestation, which was between postinoculation days 65 and 111. Five fetuses were recovered for evaluation, and E risticii was isolated from 4 of them. All 5 fetuses recovered had similar histologic findings, including enterocolitis, periportal hepatitis, and lymphoid hyperplasia with necrosis of the mesenteric lymph nodes and spleen. All 5 fetuses tested negative for IgG to E risticii, although 3 had low IgM titer to E risticii. The remaining 5 infected ponies had normal parturition. Presuckle ifa titer to E risticii was measured in 4 of the term foals, and results for 3 were positive. Two foals from infected ponies were monitored for 6 months and daily gain in body weight was comparable to that of a control foal. None of the control ponies became ill or seroconverted during the clinical illness phase, and none aborted throughout gestation. Two control ponies seroconverted to E risticii 6 weeks before parturition. Results of this study indicate that E risticii is a primary abortifacient under experimental conditions.

SUMMARY

Fetal infectivity of Ehrlichia risticii was investigated in 19 ponies that were E risticii negative on the basis of results of an indirect fluorescent antibody (ifa) test. Thirteen pregnant ponies were infected by iv administration of E risticii between 90 and 180 days of gestation. Six pregnant ponies served as noninfected controls. Each infected pony had clinical signs of equine monocytic ehrlichiosis, was confirmed to be ehrlichemic, and developed an ifa titer to E risticii. Two infected ponies became recumbent, were unresponsive to supportive care, and were euthanatized. After recovery from clinical illness, the remaining ponies were observed throughout gestation for reproductive abnormalities. On abortion, each fetus was necropsied and tissue specimens from the liver, bone marrow, spleen, colon, and mesenteric lymph nodes were inoculated into canine monocyte cell cultures. Six infected ponies aborted at a mean 217 days of gestation, which was between postinoculation days 65 and 111. Five fetuses were recovered for evaluation, and E risticii was isolated from 4 of them. All 5 fetuses recovered had similar histologic findings, including enterocolitis, periportal hepatitis, and lymphoid hyperplasia with necrosis of the mesenteric lymph nodes and spleen. All 5 fetuses tested negative for IgG to E risticii, although 3 had low IgM titer to E risticii. The remaining 5 infected ponies had normal parturition. Presuckle ifa titer to E risticii was measured in 4 of the term foals, and results for 3 were positive. Two foals from infected ponies were monitored for 6 months and daily gain in body weight was comparable to that of a control foal. None of the control ponies became ill or seroconverted during the clinical illness phase, and none aborted throughout gestation. Two control ponies seroconverted to E risticii 6 weeks before parturition. Results of this study indicate that E risticii is a primary abortifacient under experimental conditions.

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