Shorter antibiotic regimen for colic surgery in horses investigated by researchers

Researchers compared a single-shot antibiotic to the conventional five-day course for colic surgery in horses.
Researchers compared a single-shot antibiotic to the conventional five-day course for colic surgery in horses. File image.

A single antibiotic shot given to horses around the time of colic surgery to provide protection seems to be an alternative approach to the more conventional five-day course, researchers have found.

Sabita Diana Stöckle and her colleagues at the Free University of Berlin noted that guidelines for a range of surgeries in human and veterinary medicine recommend short-term antibiotic treatment to reduce the risk of disease.

In equine colic surgery, however, the antibiotic regimen commonly exceeds 24 hours.

The researchers, in their study reported in the journal Antibiotics, set out to compare a single-shot antibiotic to the conventional five-day course for colic surgery in horses, considering surgical site infections and other adverse effects probably associated with the antimicrobial regimen.

The study involved 67 horses who underwent colic surgery, performed in each case to the current standard of the clinic.

The horses were randomly assigned to two groups, with one group receiving the “single-shot” protocol and the other group receiving the five-day antibiotic prophylaxis.

The 30 horses in the single-shot group received penicillin and gentamicin only once before and, if needed, during surgery, whereas the 37 horses in the five-day group received antibiotics for five days.

The researchers found that the occurrence of postoperative adverse events — that is, surgical site infections, postoperative colitis and haemolytic anaemia — lacked significant differences between the study groups.

The study team acknowledged there were limitations to their study. The group sizes were limited, and the researchers had been unable to blind the study.

However, the findings suggest that a single-shot antibiotic seems to be an alternative approach to the five-day protocol commonly used in equine abdominal surgery. They stressed that proper hygiene management, together with a close clinical and laboratory monitoring of the equine patient, is indispensable.

“Perioperative prophylaxis in terms of a single-shot antibiotic regimen has the potential to be non-inferior to the commonly used antibiotic regimen lasting five days following colic surgery,” the authors concluded.

“Further clinical trials on the subject are needed.”

The study team comprised Sabita Diana Stöckle, Dania Kannapin, Antina Lübke-Becker, Roswitha Merle and Heidrun Gehlen, all with the Free University of Berlin; and Anne Kauter and Birgit Walther, both with the Robert Koch Institute, also in Berlin.

Stöckle, S.D.; Kannapin, D.A.; Kauter, A.M.L.; Lübke-Becker, A.; Walther, B.; Merle, R.; Gehlen, H. A Pilot Randomised Clinical Trial Comparing a Short-Term Perioperative Prophylaxis Regimen to a Long-Term Standard Protocol in Equine Colic Surgery. Antibiotics 2021, 10, 587.

The study, published under a Creative Commons License, can be read here

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