Objective—To determine whether isolation and virulence of Rhodococcus equi from soil and infected foals are associated with clinical disease.
Design—Cross-sectional and case-control study.
Sample Population—R equi isolates from 50 foals with pneumonia and soil samples from 33 farms with and 33 farms without a history of R equi infection (affected and control, respectively).
Procedure—R equi was selectively isolated from soil samples. Soil and clinical isolates were evaluated for virulence-associated protein antigen plasmids (VapAP) and resistance to the β-lactam antibiotics penicillin G and cephalothin. Microbiologic cultures and VapA-P assays were performed at 2 independent laboratories.
Results—VapA-P was detected in 49 of 50 (98%) clinical isolates; there was complete agreement between laboratories. Rhodococcus equi was isolated from soil on 28 of 33 (84.8%) affected farms and 24 of 33 (72.7%) control farms, but there was poor agreement between laboratories. Virulence-associated protein antigen plasmids were detected on 14 of 66 (21.2%) farms by either laboratory, but results agreed for only 1 of the 14 VapA-P-positive farms. We did not detect significant associations between disease status and isolation of R equi from soil, detection of VapA-P in soil isolates, or resistance of soil isolates to β-lactam antibiotics. No association between β-lactam antibiotic resistance and presence of VapA-P was detected.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—On the basis of soil microbiologic culture and VapA-P assay results, it is not possible to determine whether foals on a given farm are at increased risk of developing disease caused by R equi. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;217:220–225)