Clinical, pathologic, and epidemiologic features of nocardioform placentitis in the mare

C. E. Fedorka, K. E. Scoggin, R. E. Ruby, E. Erol, B. A. Ball

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Placentitis is the leading cause of infectious abortion in the horse and contributes to roughly 19% of all abortions in the United States. A type of placental infection, nocardioform placentitis (NP) is associated with gram-positive branching actinomycetes localized within the ventral body of the feto-maternal interface to create a lymphoplasmacytic mucoid lesion. While the etiology of this disease is poorly described, this placental infection continues to cause episodic abortions in addition to weak and/or growth retarded neonates. The goal of the present study was to perform a comprehensive analysis of pregnancies associated with a nocardioform-affected placenta and make inferences into the epidemiology of this elusive disease. To do so, 264 mares were enrolled in the study, with 145 as having suspected disease (n = 145; NP) either based on pregnancy-related complications or postpartum placental evaluation, while an additional 119 were enrolled as healthy pregnancies (n = 119; CON). Following diagnosis as either NP or CON based on gross and histopathology at the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, information was gathered on the mares and neonates for comparisons between diseased and healthy pregnancies. Clinically, a significant portion of diseased mares had clinical indications of NP, including premature mammary gland development, thickening of the placenta noted on transrectal ultrasonography, and separation between the chorioallantois and endometrium noted on abdominal ultrasonography, while vulvar discharge was not commonly noted. Additionally, NP was correlated with increased mare age, decreased gestational length, and decreased neonatal weight, although neonatal IgG and WBC were comparable to CON. Incidence of NP was not correlated with last breeding date, pre- and post-breeding therapeutics, parity, prophylactic medications, or housing. Additionally, NP did not affect postpartum fertility. While NP was associated with a poor neonatal outcome (abortion and/or growth retarded neonate), this did not appear to be influenced by the bacteria isolated (Amycolatopsis spp. vs. Crossiella equi), and mares diagnosed with NP do not appear to be infectious to other pregnant mares nor have repetitive years of the disease. Interestingly, lesion size was positively correlated with last breeding date, as mares bred later in the breeding season correlating with a larger placental lesion. In conclusion, while the etiology of NP continues to elude researchers, the epidemiology of this disease has gained clarity, providing inferences into the management of suspect mares.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-161
Number of pages7
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Inc.


  • Abortion
  • Equine
  • Nocardioform
  • Placentitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Small Animals
  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Equine


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