Infection of an equine placenta with a novel mycobacterial species leading to abortion

Aime K. Johnson, John F. Roberts, Alexander Hagan, Robyn R. Wilborn, Ghislaine Dujovne, Stephen F. Sells, J. Michael Donahue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


A 25-year-old pregnant American Quarter Horse mare presented with a 1-week history of progressively worsening vaginal discharge. Transrectal ultrasound revealed increased thickness of the combined uterus and placenta with evidence of chorioallantoic edema but no placental separation. A thickened amnion was visible on transabdominal ultrasound. Abortion occurred 2 days after presentation despite medical treatment. At necropsy, the chorioallantois had variable but diffuse thickening with focally extensive browning of the chorionic surface in the right horn and adjacent body. There were fluid-filled sacculations on the allantoic surface of the umbilical cord, allantoamnion, and chorioallantois associated with diffuse perivascular fluid microscopically. A nonbranching acid-fast bacterium identified as belonging to the genus Mycobacterium Runyon group IV was isolated from the chorioallantois and uterine fluid. Ziehl-Neelsen stain confirmed the presence of intracellular acid-fast bacilli in trophoblasts of the gravid horn and the cervical star area. The current case is unique in that the mycobacteria did not initiate a significant granulomatous inflammatory response in the chorion unless villar necrosis occurred. Sequence analysis of the 16S ribosomal RNA gene and the rpoβ gene, encoding the β subunit of RNA polymerase, indicated that the strain of mycobacteria isolated in this case belonged to a novel species of rapidly growing mycobacteria and not to an established species. Mycobacteria are an uncommon and sporadic cause of placentitis and abortion, but should be suspected in cases of chronic placentitis that are not restricted to the cervical star area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)785-790
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Abortion
  • equine
  • mare
  • mycobacteria
  • placentitis
  • rpoβ gene sequence analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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