Comparison of feces versus rectal swabs for the molecular detection of Lawsonia intracellularis in foals with equine proliferative enteropathy

Nicola Pusterla, Samantha Mapes, Cara Johnson, Nathan Slovis, Allen Page, Connie Gebhart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The purpose of the current study was to compare the molecular detection rate of Lawsonia intracellularis between feces and rectal swabs collected from 42 foals with suspected equine proliferative enteropathy (EPE). Fecal samples and rectal swabs were processed for DNA purification by using an automated extraction system. The purified DNA was then analyzed by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the presence of the aspartate ammonia lyase (aspA) gene of L. intracellularis. Absolute quantitation was calculated by using a standard curve for L. intracellularis and expressed as copy numbers of the aspA gene of L. intracellularis per microliter of purified DNA. The combined PCR detection rate for L. intracellularis was 90%, with 38 foals testing PCR positive in feces (33 samples), rectal swabs (32), or both (27). Six foals tested PCR positive only in feces, whereas 5 tested positive only in rectal swabs. Feces yielded a significantly higher aspA gene copy number of L. intracellularis than rectal swabs. Feces and rectal swabs tested PCR negative from 4 foals. In conclusion, the results showed that feces yielded similar numbers of PCR-positive results, with a higher L. intracellularis aspA gene load than rectal swabs. By analyzing dual samples, the PCR detection rate for L. intracellularis increased from 76% and 79% for rectal swabs and feces, respectively, to 90%. Rectal swabs should be considered as an alternative sample type for EPE-suspected patients with decreased or no fecal output.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)741-4
JournalJournal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2010


  • Animals
  • Aspartate Ammonia-Lyase/genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins/genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial/genetics
  • Desulfovibrionaceae Infections/veterinary
  • Feces/virology
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Horse Diseases/virology
  • Horses
  • Lawsonia Bacteria/genetics
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction/methods
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S/genetics
  • Rectum/virology


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