• Clinically silent;
  • Equine anaplasmosis;
  • Polymerase chain reaction

Background: Anaplasma phagocytophilum infects several mammalian species, and can persist in sheep, dogs, and calves. However, whether this organism persists in horses or induces long-term clinical abnormalities is not known.

Objectives: To evaluate whether A. phagocytophilum can persist in horses and to document clinical findings for 3 months after complete recovery from acute disease.

Animals: Five clinically normal adult horses that had recovered spontaneously from experimentally induced acute disease caused by a Swedish equine isolate of A. phagocytophilum.

Methods: Horses were monitored for up to 129 days post inoculation (PI) by daily clinical examination and at least alternate day blood sampling for evidence of A. phagocytophilum on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and blood smears. All horses were euthanized and underwent postmortem examination.

Results: All horses were periodically PCR positive after recovery from acute infection. Before day 66 PI 2 horses were persistently PCR negative whereas 3 horses were intermittently PCR positive. Subsequently, 4 of 5 horses were intermittently PCR positive, particularly after stress mimicking interventions. One animal was positive immediately before postmortem examination. Clinical abnormalities related to persistence of anaplasma were not observed. No specific changes were found at postmortem examination, and all sampled tissues from all horses were negative on PCR for A. phagocytophilum.

Conclusions and Clinical Importance: Infection with A. phagocytophilum can persist in the horse for at least 129 days. However, the continued presence of the organism is not associated with detectable clinical or pathological abnormalities.