Current understanding of the equine immune response to Rhodococcus equi. An immunological review of R. equi pneumonia

Tamsin R.M.Y. Dawson, David W. Horohov, Wim G. Meijer, Gary Muscatello

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Rhodococcus equi is recognised to cause chronic purulent bronchopneumonia in foals of less than 6 months of age. Virulent strains of the bacteria possess a large 80-90. kb plasmid encoding several virulence-associated proteins, including virulence-associated protein A (VapA), which is associated with disease. R. equi pneumonia can represent significant costs and wastage to the equine breeding industry, especially on stud farms where the disease is endemic. This article reviews knowledge of the equine immune response, both in the immune adult and susceptible neonate, with respect to this pathogen. Humoral immune responses are addressed, with a discussion on the use of hyperimmune and normal adult equine plasma as prophylactic tools. The role that innate immune mechanisms play in the susceptibility of some foals to R. equi infection is also highlighted. Likewise, cell-mediated immune components are reviewed, with particular attention directed towards research undertaken to develop an effective vaccine for foals. It is possible that the implementation of a single immunoprophylaxis strategy to prevent R. equi infection on farms will yield disappointing results. Combined prophylactic protocols that address husbandry practices, environmental and aerosol contamination levels, enhancement of innate immunity, good quality hyperimmune plasma for the neonate, and vaccinal efficacy in the developing foal may be required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalVeterinary Immunology and Immunopathology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - May 2010


  • Adjuvants
  • Foals
  • Humoral
  • Hyperimmune plasma
  • Innate and cell-mediated immunity
  • Rhodococcus equi
  • Vaccines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • General Veterinary


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