This study was undertaken to examine the neutrophil response to Corynebacterium (Rhodococcus) equi, and to assess the possibility of neutrophil immaturity or malfunction in predisposition to C. equi pneumonia in foals. Neutrophil phagocytosis of Corynebacterium (Rhodococcus) equi was studied in foals from birth to 6 months of age. Chemiluminescence (CL) and bactericidal assays were used to assay the phagocytic response of peripheral blood neutrophils to C. equi in vitro. Results of in vitro bactericidal and CL assays indicate that foal neutrophils are able to ingest and kill C. equi, however are significantly more efficient in the presence of opsonization with specific antibody, and less importantly complement. Neutrophil CL was significantly decreased (p>.05) or eliminated by antibody adsorption, heat-inactivation, or removal of serum from the assay. The ability of the neutrophil to kill C. equi, as measured by in vitro bactericidal assay, was greater than 90% killing by 6 hours, in the presence of C. equi antiserum. Bactericidal activity was reduced to less than 40% killing when C. equi adsorbed serum was used as the opsonin source. As CL results indicated complement involvement in the opsonization of C. equi, the temporal development of hemolytic and conglutinating complement was measured in normal and C. equi infected foals. Neither defects nor age-related suppression of neutrophil function or complement activity were detected in C. equi affected foals, suggesting that these are not pathogenic mechanisms involved in foal pneumonia.
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