P>Reasons for performing study: While previous studies have demonstrated an association between equine grass sickness (EGS) and the presence of Clostridium botulinum within ileal contents and faeces, no such associations with other intestinal-derived anaerobic bacteria have been extensively investigated. Hypothesis: The prevalence of C. perfringens in the ileal contents and faeces of EGS horses is greater than control horses; the detection of C. perfringens in faeces by ELISA could be diagnostically beneficial in a clinical setting. Methods: The prevalence of C. perfringens in faeces from EGS horses and healthy grazing control horses was determined by both selective culture and ELISA to permit both validation of the ELISA and inter-group comparisons. Additionally, the prevalence of C. perfringens (ELISA) in ileal contents from EGS horses was compared with that for control horses with nongastrointestinal disease. Finally, the prevalence of C. perfringens (ELISA) in faeces from EGS cases was compared with that from both horses with which they shared pasture at the time of disease onset and non-EGS colic horses. Results: When compared with culture, the ELISA had a sensitivity and specificity of 86 and 98%, respectively. The prevalence of C. perfringens in faeces as determined by both culture and ELISA was significantly higher (P <0.001) for EGS horses (7/9 and 15/37, respectively) than for healthy grazing controls (0/60 and 1/74, respectively). The prevalence of C. perfringens in ileal contents from EGS horses (5/10) was greater than that for horses with nongastrointestinal disease (1/12) at a level that approached significance (P = 0.056). EGS cases had a significantly greater prevalence of C. perfringens in faeces (15/37) than co-grazing horses (1/18) and colic (1/16) horses. The specificity (93%) and PPV (94%) of the detection of C. perfringens by ELISA on faecal samples in relation to disease status (EGS compared with colic horses) was good. Sensitivity (41%) and NPV (39%) were poor. Conclusions and potential relevance: The use of a commercial ELISA to detect faecal C. perfringens may be diagnostically beneficial when differentiating EGS cases from colic cases, although further work is required to fully evaluate its potential.
- Clostridium perfringens
- equine grass sickness