NetF toxin linked to severe diarrhea in foals

This photomicrograph reveals Clostridium perfringens grown in Schaedler’s broth using Gram-stain. Photo: CDC/Don Stalons (public domain), via Wikimedia Commons
This photomicrograph reveals Clostridium perfringens grown in Schaedler’s broth using Gram-stain. Photo: CDC/Don Stalons (public domain), via Wikimedia Commons

American researchers have confirmed the presence of a recently discovered toxin in foals suffering from severe diarrhea arising from infection with Clostridium perfringens.

Normally, Clostridium species, including C. perfringens, are present in the gastrointestinal tract in low numbers and do not cause disease.

However, under certain conditions, horses can acquire C. perfringens that secretes toxins that damage the cells of the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in enterocolitis and diarrhea.

Recently, a novel pore-forming toxin, NetF, has been strongly associated with foal necrotising enteritis and canine haemorrhagic gastroenteritis.

Now, researchers have identified for the first time the presence of NetF in foals with enteritis and enterocolitis in Kentucky. NetF is one of the toxins identified as being produced by C. perfringens.

The work was carried out by two researchers from the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, Nathan Slovis and Luke Fallon, the Gluck Equine Research Center’s John Timoney, and the University of Guelph’s John Prescott.

“This is exciting because now we have a test to look for NetF in horse feces,” says Slovis. That test is available through IDEXX Laboratory.

Interestingly, NetF also was identified in the C. perfringens vaccine developed by Fallon and Timoney, UK MF 05/00, which is available from Hagyard Pharmacy for use in the United States upon approval of the state veterinarian.

In a study that included 18 central Kentucky mares who had been vaccinated with Hagyard’s Clostridium vaccine, 12 (61%) showed a rise in antibodies for NetF.

The study authors now intend to test whether increasing the amount of NetF in the vaccine will result in all mares showing increased immunity. Hagyard’s vaccine also produced raised antibodies against the B2 toxin (CPB2), the enterotoxin (CPE) and the alpha toxin (CPA).

NetF-positive Clostridium perfringens in neonatal foal necrotizing enteritis in Kentucky
Mehdizadeh Gohari, I.; Parreira, V.R.; Timoney, J.F.; Fallon, L.; Slovis, N. and Prescott, J.F.;
Veterinary Record, 10.1136/vr.103606, 2016.

Read more about the research here

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