Last week (27-28 October), Rossdales’ medicine specialist Caroline Ribonnet attended The Annual ECEIM Congress in Lyon, France, where she presented a poster entitled Serial investigation of seroprevalence and faecal shedding of Lawsonia intracellularis in Thoroughbred foals in the first year of life, detailing the findings of a research study undertaken with funding from HBLB and the TBA.
Lawsonia intracellularis is a bacteria that causes equine proliferative enteropathy (EPE), an intestinal disease that mainly affects foals, weanlings and yearlings. It is a significant cause of loss to the Thoroughbred industry through treatment costs, loss of individuals, reduced growth rates and decreased sales prices. Prior to this study, there was no UK-based data detailing background level of exposure or infection rates to Lawsonia.
47 Thoroughbred foals from the Newmarket area were involved in the study. The results indicated that exposure to the bacteria is very common. 78% of foals produced antibodies to the bacteria. The peak time for antibody production to occur was between 6-9 months of age and between the months of September and January. This suggests that this is the peak time for exposure to the bacteria and the highest risk time for foals to develop clinical disease.
This information can be used to help improve screening policies and optimise the timing of vaccination. No foals developed signs of the disease but blood protein levels were slightly lower in 9-month-old foals with a positive test result. This suggests that there may have been some mild undetected disease in the study and also implies that further investigation is needed to evaluate the effects of exposure to the bacteria on growth and development.
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