Alternative Antibiotic Combination Showing Promise For Foal Pneumonia

Foals that fall ill with pneumonia, specifically the form caused by Rhodococcus equi, are in grave danger: This form of pneumonia causes abscesses in the lungs that can be difficult to treat. Currently, a combination of the antimicrobials azithromycin and rifampicin are used as treatments as the bacteria rapidly develop resistance to rifampicin if used on its own.

Rifampicin is used to treat tuberculsosis in humans, so pressure is being placed on veterinarians to reduce its use as antibiotic resistance in human medicine ramps up. A recent study completed by Drs. M. Wetzig, M. Venner and S. Giguère has shown that the combination of azithromycin and doxycycline created similar positive responses as the combination of azithromycin and rifampicin.

The researchers used 240 foals with mild to moderate bronchopnenumonia and divided them into three groups: those treated with azithromycin and doxycycline; those treated with azithromycin and rifampicin; and an untreated control group.

The foals were examined physically and with a thoracic ultrasound, given by people who were unaware of which treatment the foals were receiving. Foals who became more ill were considered treatment failures and removed from the study.

The researchers concluded that treating foals with azithromycin and doxycycline is as effective as treating them with azithromycin and rifampicin; there was little difference in the recovery rates of foals in the two different treatment groups. The group that received the azithromycin and doxycycline treatment saw 80 of 81 foals recover, compared to all 81 foals in the azithromycin and rifampicin group. In the control group, 57 or 78 foals recovered without treatment.

Read more at Equine Science Update.

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