Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis infection in horses: 538 cases (1982-1993)

Monica Aleman From the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (Aleman) and the Department of Medicine and Epidemiology (Spier, Wilson, Doherr), School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.

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Sharon J. Spier From the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (Aleman) and the Department of Medicine and Epidemiology (Spier, Wilson, Doherr), School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.

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W. David Wilson From the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (Aleman) and the Department of Medicine and Epidemiology (Spier, Wilson, Doherr), School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.

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Marcus Doherr From the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (Aleman) and the Department of Medicine and Epidemiology (Spier, Wilson, Doherr), School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.

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Objective

To describe clinical manifestations of Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis infection in horses and to evaluate diagnostic methods for identification of this disease.

Design

Retrospective case series.

Animals

538 horses with a diagnosis of C pseudotuberculosis infection.

Results

Median age of horses with external abscesses was similar to that in horses with internal abscesses. Breed and sex did not appear to be associated with infection. Cases were detected during all 12 months; however, the disease was most common in the fall and early winter, with the highest incidence in September, October, and November in every year. Most horses (492/538, 91.4%) had a single episode of infection, without recurrence in subsequent years. Of 538 horses, 308 had pectoral abscesses, although infection was documented in many other anatomic locations. Forty-two horses had internal abscesses involving the abdomen or thoracic cavity. Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis infection was readily identified by bacterial culture of aspirate samples from abscesses. The synergistic hemolysis inhibition test was useful for diagnosis of internal abscesses; however, it was unreliable for the diagnosis of external abscesses. Horses with external abscesses responded well to conventional treatment, in contrast to those with internal abscesses. The overall case fatality was low (3.9%), and was considerably lower for horses with external abscesses (0.8%) than for horses with internal abscesses (40.5%).

Clinical Implications

Serology (synergistic hemolysis inhibition titers ≥ 512) is useful for diagnosis of internal abscesses, but not reliable for diagnosis in horses with exernal abscesses. Prognosis for horses with internal abscesses is considerably poorer than for those with external abscesses. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 1996;209:804–809)

Objective

To describe clinical manifestations of Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis infection in horses and to evaluate diagnostic methods for identification of this disease.

Design

Retrospective case series.

Animals

538 horses with a diagnosis of C pseudotuberculosis infection.

Results

Median age of horses with external abscesses was similar to that in horses with internal abscesses. Breed and sex did not appear to be associated with infection. Cases were detected during all 12 months; however, the disease was most common in the fall and early winter, with the highest incidence in September, October, and November in every year. Most horses (492/538, 91.4%) had a single episode of infection, without recurrence in subsequent years. Of 538 horses, 308 had pectoral abscesses, although infection was documented in many other anatomic locations. Forty-two horses had internal abscesses involving the abdomen or thoracic cavity. Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis infection was readily identified by bacterial culture of aspirate samples from abscesses. The synergistic hemolysis inhibition test was useful for diagnosis of internal abscesses; however, it was unreliable for the diagnosis of external abscesses. Horses with external abscesses responded well to conventional treatment, in contrast to those with internal abscesses. The overall case fatality was low (3.9%), and was considerably lower for horses with external abscesses (0.8%) than for horses with internal abscesses (40.5%).

Clinical Implications

Serology (synergistic hemolysis inhibition titers ≥ 512) is useful for diagnosis of internal abscesses, but not reliable for diagnosis in horses with exernal abscesses. Prognosis for horses with internal abscesses is considerably poorer than for those with external abscesses. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 1996;209:804–809)

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