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Equine Vet J. 2007 Sep;39(5):470-8.

Rhodococcus equi infection in foals: the science of 'rattles'.

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  • 1Equine Infectious Disease Laboratory, School of Veterinary Science, The University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia.


Infection with Rhodococcus (Corynebacterium) equi is a well-recognised condition in foals that represents a consistent and serious risk worldwide. The condition manifests itself primarily as one of pulmonary abscessation and bronchitis, hence the terminology of 'rattles' derived from its most obvious clinical sign, frequently terminal when first identified. This review addresses the clinical manifestation, bacteriology and pathogenesis of the condition together with recent developments providing knowledge of the organism in terms of virulence, epidemiology, transmission and immune responses. Enhanced understanding of R. equi virulence mechanisms and biology derived from the recently available genome sequence may facilitate the rational development of a vaccine and the improvement of farm management practices used to control R. equi on stud farms in the future. Reliance on vaccines alone, in the absence of management strategies to control the on-farm challenge is likely to be disappointing.

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