A total of 1235 tracheal aspirates taken from 724 thoroughbreds in race training, aged from two to 10 years, were examined cytologically and bacteriologically. An inflammation scoring system on a scale of 0 to 9 was devised to allow the severity of lower airway disease to be assessed from the cytological results. The inflammation scores were closely related to the isolation of bacteria (P<0.001), and the most common bacterial isolates were Streptococcus zooepidemicus, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Pasteurella/Actinobacillus-like species. Lower airway disease was less common in older horses (P=0.031), and the groups at highest risk were the two- and four-year-olds. Lower airway inflammation was more common in the four-year-olds at National Hunt yards than in the four-year-olds at flat racing yards (P=0.040, odds ratio=3.80).
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