Oral infection of weanling foals with an equine isolate of Lawsonia intracellularis, agent of equine proliferative enteropathy

N. Pusterla, S. Wattanaphansak, S. Mapes, J. Collier, J. Hill, M. DiFrancesco, C. Gebhart

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45 Scopus citations


Background: Equine proliferative enteropathy (EPE) is an emerging disease of weanling foals. Objectives: Describe clinical, hematologic, biochemical, serologic, molecular, and ultrasonographic findings in foals experimentally infected with Lawsonia intracellularis. Animals: Eight foals. Methods: Recently weaned foals were assigned to either the challenge (n = 3), the sentinel (n = 3), or the control (n = 2) group. Foals were experimentally challenged via intragastric inoculation of 3 × 1010 L. intracellularis organisms grown in culture. Each experimentally infected foal was housed with a sentinel foal in order to assess feco-oral transmission. All foals were monitored daily for the development of clinical abnormalities and were weighed once weekly for the duration of the study (90 days). Abdominal ultrasound examination was performed weekly. Feces were collected every other day for 60 days, then weekly for an additional 30 days for the quantitative molecular detection of L. intracellularis. Blood was collected weekly for hematologic, biochemical, and serologic analysis. Results: Only challenged foals developed transient clinical signs of EPE consisting of anorexia, lethargy, fever, loose feces, and peripheral edema. Two challenged foals developed transient hypoalbuminemia. Fecal shedding of L. intracellularis was first detected in the challenged foals between days 12 and 18 postinoculation and lasted for 7-21 days. Seroconversion was documented in all challenged foals and in 1 sentinel foal. The remaining sentinel and control foals remained unaffected. Conclusions and Clinical Importance: Clinical EPE of variable severity was induced in all foals infected with L. intracellularis. Furthermore, L. intracellularis can be transmitted via the feco-oral route to susceptible herdmates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)622-627
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of veterinary internal medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author would like t o thank Associate Professor Arnan Mitchell and Dr. Lam Bui of RMIT University, Australia, for useful discussions, and Mr. Daniel Borg of the Defence Science & T echnology Organisation, Australia, for post-simulation signal processing.


  • Experimental infection
  • PCR
  • Serology


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