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Vet. Res.
Volume 35, Number 4, July-August 2004
Equine infectious diseases
Page(s) 397 - 409
How to cite this article Vet. Res. (2004) 397-409
Vet. Res. 35 (2004) 397-409
DOI: 10.1051/vetres:2004025

The pathogenic equine streptococci

John F. Timoney

Gluck Equine Research Center, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40546, USA

(Received 11 August 2003; accepted 10 October 2003)

Abstract - Streptococci pathogenic for the horse include S. equi (S. equi subsp. equi), S. zooepidemicus (S. equi subsp. zooepidemicus), S. dysgalactiae subsp. equisimilis and S. pneumoniae capsule Type III. S. equi is a clonal descendent or biovar of an ancestral S. zooepidemicus strain with which it shares greater than 98% DNA homology and therefore expresses many of the same proteins and virulence factors. Rapid progress has been made in identification of virulence factors and proteins uniquely expressed by S. equi. Most of these are expressed either on the bacterial surface or are secreted. Notable examples include the antiphagocytic SeM and the secreted pyrogenic superantigens SePE-I and H. The genomic DNA sequence of S. equi will greatly accelerate identification and characterization of additional virulence factors and vaccine targets. Although it is the most frequently isolated opportunist pyogen of the horse, S. zooepidemicus has been the subject of few contemporary research studies. Variation in the protectively immunogenic SzP proteins has, however, been well characterized. Given its opportunist behavior, studies are urgently needed on regulation of virulence factors such as capsule and proteases. Likewise, information is also very limited on virulence factors and associated gene regulation of S. dysgalactiae subspecies equisimilis. It has recently been shown that equine isolates of Streptococcus pneumoniae are clonal, a feature shared with S. equi. All equine isolates express capsule Type III, are genetically similar, and have deletions in the genes for autolysin and pneumolysin. In summary, the evolving picture of the interaction of the equine pathogenic streptococci and their host is that of multiple virulence factors active at different stages of pathogenesis. The inherent complexity of this interaction suggests that discovery of effective combinations of immunogens from potential targets identified in genomic sequence will be laborious.

Key words: streptococcus / equine / pathogenic

Corresponding author: John F. Timoney

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2004