Toxic seeds of the sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) are the likely cause of Atypical Myopathy (AM)
Atypical Myopathy is a highly fatal muscle disease of horses in the UK and Northern Europe. In ten years, approximately twenty European countries have reported the disease. Incidences tend to occur repeatedly in the autumn and in the spring following large autumnal outbreaks. Horses that develop AM are usually kept in sparse pastures with an accumulation of dead leaves, dead wood and trees in or around the pasture and are often not fed any supplementary hay or feed.
A very similar disorder, Seasonal Pasture Myopathy (SPM), which occurs in Midwestern USA and Eastern Canada, is now known to be caused by a toxin (hypoglycin A), contained in seeds from the box elder tree.
The European research team, led by Dominic Votion, of the University of Liege, studied 17 horses from Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands, suffering from Atypical Myopathy. They found high concentrations of methylenecyclopropyl acetic acid (MCPA), a toxic metabolite of hypoglycin A, in the serum of all affected horses.
The pastures of 12 of the horses were visited by experienced botanists and Acer pseudoplatanus, the sycamore maple, was found to be present in every case. This was the only tree common to all visited pastures. Acer negundo, the box maple, was not present on any of the farms on which atypical myopathy occured.
Researchers believe hypoglycin A is the likely cause of both AM in Europe and SPM in North America. The sycamore and the box elder are known to produce seeds containing hypoglycin A and the pastures of the afflicted horses in Europe and the USA were surrounded by these trees.
in European horses, according a new study.
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