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Vet Microbiol. 2008 Feb 5;127(1-2):89-96. Epub 2007 Aug 24.

Fusobacterium equinum possesses a leukotoxin gene and exhibits leukotoxin activity.

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Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA.


Fusobacterium equinum, a gram negative, rod-shaped and an obligate anaerobic bacterium is a newly described species. The organism is associated with necrotic infections of the respiratory tract in horses that include necrotizing pneumonia, pleuritis and paraoral infections. The species is closely related to F. necrophorum that causes liver abscesses in cattle and sheep, calf-diphtheria in cattle, and foot-rot in sheep and cattle. Leukotoxin, an exotoxin, is an important virulence factor in bovine strains of F. necrophorum. Our objective was to examine strains (n=10) of F. equinum for leukotoxin (lktA) gene and its toxic effects on equine leukocytes. Southern hybridization and partial DNA sequencing revealed that all the 10 strains had the lktA gene with greater similarities to F. necrophorum subsp. necrophorum. The secreted leukotoxin was detected in the culture supernatant and its biological activity was determined by viability assays with equine polymorphonuclear cells (PMNs) using flow cytometry. While culture supernatants of four strains (E1, E7, E9, and E10) were highly toxic to equine PMNs; strain E5 was moderately toxic and the remaining strains (E2, E3, E4, E6, and E8) were only mildly toxic. Our data indicated that F. equinum isolates had lktA gene and its product was toxic to equine leukocytes. Therefore, leukotoxin may be an important virulence factor in F. equinum infections.

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