Testing A New Treatment For Foal Pneumonia

The University of Georgia and Texas A&M University, with funds provided by the Morris Animal Foundation, may have found a way to treat foal pneumonia without encouraging drug-resistant bacteria. The scientists have found that gallium maltolate (GaM) could be a viable alternative to antibiotics.

Pneumonia is one of the leading causes of death in foals; there is vaccine available. The most-severe cases are caused by a bacterium in the soil. Testing for pneumonia is not always reliable, so many foals are treated with antibiotics even though they may not have developed the condition. Often these antibiotics include a combination of a macrolide antimicrobial (like azithromycin) with rifampin (MaR).

While treating all foals that may develop pneumonia saves lives in the short-term, it encourages bacterial resistance as many foals that wouldn’t develop pneumonia are treated with antibiotics. The non-traditional use of GaM, a semi-metal compound with anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, is a viable option for treating foal pneumonia that doesn’t encourage antibiotic resistance.

The researchers screened 57 foals in central Kentucky for subclinical pneumonia and divided the foals into three groups: two groups had lesions on their lungs, but no clinical signs. The third group was a control group that were healthy. The affected horses were given either MaR or GaM for two weeks.

Fecal samples of each foal were analyzed after the two-week treatment. DNA tests showed that foals treated with MaR had an increase in the number and diversity of antibiotic resistant genes in the bacteria. These bacteria were resistant to multiple antibiotics and drugs. The GaM-treated and control groups had no change in the number or diversity of resistant genes.

The next step is to test the effectiveness of GaM on foals that are clinically infected with pneumonia.

Read more at Morris Animal Foundation.

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