Equine Vet J. 2022 Oct 22. doi: 10.1111/evj.13894. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Foals that develop pulmonary ultrasonographic lesions on Rhodococcus equi (R. equi) endemic farms are treated with antibiotics because those at risk of developing clinical pneumonia (~20%) cannot be recognised early. Candidate biomarkers identified using metabolomics may aid targeted treatment strategies against R. equi.
OBJECTIVES: 1) To describe how foal ageing affects their plasma metabolome (birth to 8 weeks) and 2) To establish the effects that experimental infection with Rhodococcus equi (R. equi) has on foal metabolome.
STUDY DESIGN: Experimental study.
METHODS: Nine healthy newborn foals were experimentally infected with R. equi as described in a previous study. Foals were treated with oral antibiotics if they developed clinical pneumonia (n = 4, clinical group) or remained untreated if they showed no signs of disease (n = 5, subclinical group). A group of unchallenged foals (n = 4) was also included in the study. By the end of the study period (8 weeks), all foals were free of disease. This status was confirmed with transtracheal wash fluid evaluation and culture as well as thoracic ultrasonography. Plasma metabolomics was determined by GC-MS weekly for the study duration (8 weeks).
RESULTS: Foal’s plasma metabolome was altered by ageing (birth to 8 weeks) and experimental infection with R. equi as demonstrated using multivariate statistical analysis. The intensities of 25 and 28 metabolites were altered by ageing and infection (p < 0.05) respectively. Furthermore, 20 metabolites changed by more than 2-fold between clinical and subclinical groups.
MAIN LIMITATIONS: The number of foals is limited. Foals were experimentally infected with R. equi.
CONCLUSIONS: Ageing and R. equi infection induced changes in the plasma metabolome of foals. These results provide an initial description of foal’s plasma metabolome and serve as background for future identification of R. equi pneumonia biomarkers.