Prevalence of Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin and Clostridium difficile toxin A in feces of horses with diarrhea and colic

Mark T. Donaldson From the Department of Clinical Studies, New Bolton Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Kennett Square, PA 19348.

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Jonathan E. Palmer From the Department of Clinical Studies, New Bolton Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Kennett Square, PA 19348.

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Objective

To determine prevalence of clostridial enterotoxins in feces of horses with diarrhea and colic, and to determine whether an association exists between detection of clostridial enterotoxins in feces and development of diarrhea as a complication of colic.

Design

Prospective case series and case-control study.

Animals

174 horses with diarrhea, colic, or problems not related to the gastrointestinal tract.

Procedure

Horses were assigned to 1 of 4 groups: colic with diarrhea (group 1; n = 30); colic without diarrhea (group 2; 30); diarrhea without colic (group 3; 57); and control (group 4; 57). Feces were evaluated by use of ELISA to detect Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin (CPE) and C difficile toxin A (TOXA). Frequency of detection of CPE or TOXA in groups 1 and 3 was compared with that in groups 2 and 4, respectively.

Results

Prevalence of enteric clostridiosis in horses in group 3 was 25%. Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin was detected in 9 of 57 (16%), TOXA in 8 of 57 (14%), and both toxins in 3 of 57 (5%) fecal samples collected from these horses. Neither toxin was detected in feces of the age-matched horses in group 4. Clostridial enterotoxins were detected in feces of 7 of 60 (12%) horses with colic (groups 1 and 2); however, a significant association was not found between detection of enterotoxins in feces and development of diarrhea as a complication of colic.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance

Clostridia are important etiologic agents of diarrhea in horses. Additionally, changes in intestinal flora of horses with colic may allow for proliferation of clostridia and elaboration of enterotoxins regardless of whether diarrhea develops. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 1999;215:358–361)

Objective

To determine prevalence of clostridial enterotoxins in feces of horses with diarrhea and colic, and to determine whether an association exists between detection of clostridial enterotoxins in feces and development of diarrhea as a complication of colic.

Design

Prospective case series and case-control study.

Animals

174 horses with diarrhea, colic, or problems not related to the gastrointestinal tract.

Procedure

Horses were assigned to 1 of 4 groups: colic with diarrhea (group 1; n = 30); colic without diarrhea (group 2; 30); diarrhea without colic (group 3; 57); and control (group 4; 57). Feces were evaluated by use of ELISA to detect Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin (CPE) and C difficile toxin A (TOXA). Frequency of detection of CPE or TOXA in groups 1 and 3 was compared with that in groups 2 and 4, respectively.

Results

Prevalence of enteric clostridiosis in horses in group 3 was 25%. Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin was detected in 9 of 57 (16%), TOXA in 8 of 57 (14%), and both toxins in 3 of 57 (5%) fecal samples collected from these horses. Neither toxin was detected in feces of the age-matched horses in group 4. Clostridial enterotoxins were detected in feces of 7 of 60 (12%) horses with colic (groups 1 and 2); however, a significant association was not found between detection of enterotoxins in feces and development of diarrhea as a complication of colic.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance

Clostridia are important etiologic agents of diarrhea in horses. Additionally, changes in intestinal flora of horses with colic may allow for proliferation of clostridia and elaboration of enterotoxins regardless of whether diarrhea develops. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 1999;215:358–361)

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