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Vet Microbiol. 1998 Mar 15;61(1-2):59-69.

Detection of virulent Rhodococcus equi in tracheal aspirate samples by polymerase chain reaction for rapid diagnosis of R. equi pneumonia in foals.

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Department of Animal Hygiene, School of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences, Kitasato University, Aomori, Japan.


Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based assays were developed to detect virulent Rhodococcus equi in transtracheal aspirate samples from sick foals showing respiratory signs. An oligonucleotide primer pair from the sequence of the virulence-associated 15- to 17-kDa antigen gene of the virulence plasmid in virulent R. equi was used to amplify a 564 bp region by PCR, and the result was confirmed by Southern blot hybridization. No positive reaction was seen in DNA from 13 different microorganisms typically found in the respiratory tract. In tracheal aspirates seeded with virulent R. equi, a visible band could detect 10 to 10(2) bacteria per PCR assay (10(3) to 10(4)/ml of the aspirate). Virulent R. equi was demonstrated in 31 of 42 transtracheal aspirates by culture and colony blot analysis, whereas a positive PCR result was observed in only 12 of the 31 culture positive samples. To prevent false-negative results, two methods were developed: a nested PCR and a PCR in combination with enrichment cultures of aspirates in the selective medium to increase the number of bacteria to 10(4)/ml or more. All of the PCR-negative and culture-positive samples were positive by the two methods. These results indicated that PCR-based assays provide a specific and sensitive means to detect virulent R. equi in tracheal aspirates of foals, and they are more rapid than the routine culture procedures for the diagnosis of R. equi pneumonia in foals.

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