Clostridium piliforme infection (Tyzzer disease) in horses: retrospective study of 25 cases and literature review

Juan A. García, Mauricio A. Navarro, Karina Fresneda, Francisco A. Uzal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Tyzzer disease (TD) is caused by Clostridium piliforme, a gram-negative and obligate intracellular bacterium. The disease occurs in multiple species. A triad of lesions, namely colitis, hepatitis, and myocarditis, is described in cases of TD in some species, such as rats and mice. We carried out a retrospective analysis of 25 equine cases with a diagnosis of TD; 24 of 25 cases occurred in foals <45 d old; the remaining foal was 90 d old. There were 12 males and 12 females; no sex information was available for one foal. The affected breeds were Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred, Arabian, Paint, and Hanoverian. Most of the cases (19 of 25) occurred in the spring. There were 9 cases of sudden death; the remaining animals had diarrhea, fever, distended abdomen, depression, weakness, non-responsiveness, and/or recumbency. Gross findings included icterus, hepatomegaly with acinar pattern, serosal hemorrhages, pulmonary edema, and/or fluid content in small and large intestine. Microscopically, all foals had severe, multifocal, necrotizing hepatitis. Necrotizing lymphohistiocytic colitis was observed in 10 of 25 foals, and multifocal necrotizing myocarditis was found in 8 of 25. Gram-negative, Steiner-positive, intracytoplasmic filamentous bacteria were observed in hepatocytes, enterocytes, and myocardiocytes, respectively. PCR detected C. piliforme DNA in the liver (24 of 24), colon (20 of 24), and heart (5 of 25). Our results indicate that necrotic hepatitis is the hallmark of TD in horses; the so-called triad of lesions is not a consistent characteristic of the disease in this species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Clostridium piliforme
  • colitis
  • hepatitis
  • horses
  • myocarditis
  • Tyzzer disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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