The plasmid profiles of virulent Rhodococcus equi strains isolated on three horse-breeding farms located in different parts of Hungary were investigated. From 49 soil samples collected on the three farms, 490 R. equi isolates (10 from each sample) were obtained and tested for the presence of 15- to 17-kDa antigens (VapA) by immunoblotting and PCR. Ninety-eight VapA-positive isolates were detected from 30 of the 49 culture-positive samples with a prevalence ranging from 13.1% to 23.2%. Of the 98 virulent isolates, 70 contained an 85-kb type I plasmid, 13 contained an 87-kb type I plasmid, and 15 contained an 85-kb type III plasmid which had been uniquely isolated from soil isolates in the United States. This study demonstrates that the virulent form of R. equi is very widespread in the soil environment of these stud farms in Hungary and the plasmid pattern is different from farm to farm.
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