Detection of Bacteraemia and Host Response in Healthy Neonatal Foals

You can have free online access to selected full-text journal articles from Wiley-Blackwell through Veterinary Clinical Digest. Issue 24 contains equine-related articles, including, “Detection of bacteraemia and host response in healthy neonatal foals.”

Reasons for Performing the Study

Neonatal sepsis is a common problem in foals and is a primary cause of death in the post natal period. Transient bacteraemia and subsequent host responses have not been described in the equine neonate.


The primary objective of this study was to determine if transient bacteraemia occurs in foals within the first 72 h of life. Additional objectives included description of bacterial organisms associated with transient bacteraemia and concurrent cytokine gene expression in healthy foals.

Study Design

Prospective observational study in healthy foals.


Blood was aseptically collected for bacterial culture from observed spontaneously born foals at birth and 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 12, 24, 48 and 72 h following birth. Samples taken at birth, 4, 12, 24, 48 and 72 h were analysed for interferon gamma (IFNγ), interleukin (IL)-1, IL-2, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-18 and monocyte chemotactic protein 1 (MCP1) cytokine gene expression quantified by RT-PCR.


Bacteria were cultured from 9 of 70 samples submitted for blood culture. The positive samples were from 4 of the 7 foals, all of which remained healthy throughout and subsequent to the study. All positive blood cultures were from blood samples obtained at 12 h of age or earlier and IL-10 elevation coincided with positive blood cultures in healthy foals. Cytokine gene expression fluctuated with age.


Positive blood cultures suggest transient bacteraemia may occur in healthy foals early in the post natal period. Age corrected normal values may be necessary to interpret cytokine concentration in diseased populations.


E.S. Hackett, R.A. Ferris, M.R. Lappin, and P.M. McCue, Department of Clinical Sciences, Colorado State University; D.P. Lunn, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University; D.W. Horohov, Department of Veterinary Science, Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center, University of Kentucky.

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