Thursday, October 21, 2021

Insights into strangles in the UK

 A new study from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), analysing laboratory diagnoses of strangles across the UK, paves the way for an improved understanding of the spread and control of strangles to reduce the impact of this devastating disease.

Strangles is a contagious upper respiratory tract infection, caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi, which can affect horses, ponies and donkeys of any age, breed or sex with younger horses typically more severely affected. It is also one of the most prevalent infectious diseases amongst horses and ponies worldwide, carrying a very high welfare burden with up to 100% of horses in outbreaks becoming affected.


This study, funded by The Horse Trust, brought together an international team from the RVC, the University of Melbourne, jDATA, Intervacc AB, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the British Horseracing Authority. A full report of the work is published in the Veterinary Record.


Researchers analysed data from seven UK diagnostic laboratories between January 2015 and December 2019, finding that 1,617 laboratory diagnoses of strangles were recorded during that time. However, considering the number of potentially undiagnosed horses, the true number of equids affected by strangles is thought to be much higher.


Importantly, the findings of this study begin to quantify the occurrence of strangles within the UK and guide veterinary surgeons in their approach to disease diagnosis. This includes not ruling out a strangles diagnosis when a horse or pony presents with more general clinical signs of nasal discharge, with or without fever, in the absence of abscessation or swelling of the submandibular and retropharyngeal lymph nodes. More generally, the study suggested that the description of ‘classical’ and ‘atypical’ clinical signs should be revised.


The study also provides a valuable resource for UK horse owners in the form of an online tool to identify if strangles outbreaks have occurred in their area, or a region they may be travelling to with their horses. This resource is actively updated – so if a region is currently experiencing higher numbers of strangles diagnoses, owners can stay informed and subsequently heighten their biosecurity and hygiene protocols. This will help to reduce the spread of strangles and ultimately the impact it can have on yards, owners and horses.


This resource is actively updated meaning that if a region is currently experiencing higher numbers of strangles diagnoses, owners can stay informed and subsequently heighten their biosecurity and hygiene protocols. This will help to reduce the spread of strangles and ultimately the impact it can have on yards, owners and horses.


The publication also reinforces the benefit of a united front for strangles research and how through laboratories, veterinary practices and owners working together, we can provide much more detailed insights into the disease, leading towards safeguarding the health of our horses.

Abigail McGlennon, PhD student in the Department of Pathobiology and Population Sciences, Royal Veterinary College, and lead author of the report, said: “Prior to the development of the Surveillance of Equine Strangles network in 2018, there was limited information available about strangles diagnoses in the UK. This publication highlights the prevalence of strangles in the UK and the variation in signs that infected horses show. The results of this five-year surveillance study enable the continued development of evidence-based recommendations within the equine industry to help reduce the spread of strangles and keep our horses healthy and happy.” 


For more details, see the full (open access) article:


Surveillance of strangles in UK horses between 2015 and 2019 based on laboratory detection of Streptococcus equi. 

McGlennon A, Waller A, Verheyen K, Slater J, Grewar J, Aanensen D, Newton R. 

Vet Rec. 2021;e948.


To visit the Surveillance of Strangles website, go to :

Dangers of equestrian activities severely under-appreciated say US researchers.

  A recent study has found that the risk of an injury, requiring hospital admission, is higher for horse riding than for other potentially risky sporting activities, such as football, motor racing, or skiing.

Kevin Mutore and colleagues examined data supplied from level I and II trauma centers to the US National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB), on injuries sustained by adults while horse riding between 2007 and 2016. 


They retrieved details of 45,671 patients with equestrian injuries for this period. Data were incomplete for 20,880 patients, leaving 24,791 for inclusion in the analysis. The average age of those injured was 47, with almost equal proportions of men and women. 


Analysis showed that the most common site of injury was the chest, (37%) followed by arms and legs (26.5%). Head and neck injuries, although occurring less commonly (23%), were the most likely to prove fatal.


Severe neurological damage, classified as a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score of 3–8, was observed in 888 (3.5%) patients. The GCS is a clinical scale used to measure a person's level of consciousness after a brain injury. It ranges from 3 (deep coma) to 15 (normal consciousness.) 


Riders with head and neck injuries were 44 times as likely to die as those with arm/leg injuries, while those with chest and abdominal injuries were around 6 times as likely to do so. 


The researchers point out that the study only included data from patients treated at US trauma centers that reported data to the NTDB. Nevertheless, the findings prompt them to conclude that: “Equestrian-related injuries are a frequently ignored public health issue.”


They go on to say: “When taken together, these data suggest that the dangers of equestrian activities have been severely underappreciated. When controlled for hours of activity, horseback riding resulted in a higher proportion of hospital admission than other higher risk activities like skiing.”


Protective gear can save lives, but is not always worn, they highlight. “Studies have shown that a large fraction of riders involved in equestrian injuries were not wearing helmets at the time of their accident. It stands to reason that raising awareness of the possible injuries and increasing preventive measures to protect against head injuries would significantly reduce mortality.”


They conclude: “We suggest that preventive measures and campaigns should be instituted to highlight safety practices. Implementing the consistent use of personal protective equipment, such as helmets and vests, will provide added protection to all riders (working or leisure) while on horseback. It is also imperative that medical professionals examine patients injured during horseback riding for head and neck injuries as these contribute to the highest mortality.”


Full details of the research are available in the open access paper published in the online journal Trauma Surgery & Acute Care Open.



Mutore K, Lim J, Fofana D, Torres-Reveron A, Skubic JJ

Hearing hoofbeats? Think head and neck trauma: a 10-year NTDB analysis of equestrian-related trauma in the USA

Trauma Surgery & Acute Care Open 2021;vol 6: e000728.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Free Equitation Science Conference

There’s just time to register for the International Society for Equitation Science conference, which will be held online on 20th – 22nd October. Thanks to the generosity of the sponsors, it is being offered completely free of charge.


With the theme of Advancing Equestrian Practice to improve Equine Quality of Life, the conference is open to all with an interest in improving the welfare of the horse in its interactions with us. 


It aims to bring together horse riders, pony clubs and riding clubs, coaches and trainers, and equine students as well as academics, researchers and scientists to show how using evidence-informed approaches can advance equestrian practice and improve equine quality of life. 


For more details, see:

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Hendra virus found in flying foxes across Australia

Scientists at CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, have identified a new type of Hendra virus inflying foxes. The findings have been published in Virology Journal.

Hendra virus (HeV) causes lethal disease outbreaks in horses and humans. Flying foxes (fruit bats) provide a wildlife reservoir for the virus. Hendra virus can be transmitted from flying foxes to horses, and from horses to people. 


Previous studies have found the virus in flying foxes in Queensland and parts of New South Wales. They suggested that the black and the spectacled flying foxes were the primary carriers of Hendra virus. 


After monitoring flying fox samples from 2013-2021, researchers at CSIRO’s Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) found the new genetic type (designated HeV-g2)  in grey-headed flying foxes in Victoria and South Australia, and in the little red flying fox in Western Australia. 


The new genetic type was first detected in a flying fox sample from 2013, but with technology available at the time the researchers could not fully analyse its genome sequence to confirm its identity and understand its significance.


By piecing together the new virus’ genome from several flying fox samples since then using the latest technology, they discovered it was indeed a new type of Hendra virus. Ninety-eight flying foxes tested negative to the original Hendra virus, but 11 were found to carry genetic material indicative of HeV-g2.


The findings show that all areas in Australia where flying-foxes live in contact with horses are at risk of Hendra virus spilling over into the equine (and human) populations.

CSIRO scientist Dr Kim Halpin said spillover of the disease from flying foxes to horses has still only been reported in Queensland and New South Wales.


“However, because Hendra Virus Genotype 2 is so genetically similar to the original Hendra virus, there is a potential risk to horses wherever flying foxes are found in Australia,” Dr Halpin said.


“It’s important to note that Hendra has never been reported to spread directly from flying foxes to humans – it’s always been transmitted from infected horses to humans. We expect this new genetic type would behave the same way.”


"And given the similarities, while more research is needed, we expect the existing Hendra virus vaccine for horses should work against this new type too” she added. “This finding really underscores the importance of research into flying foxes – it's crucial to helping us understand and protect Australians against the viruses they can carry.”


For more details, see:


A new Hendra virus genotype found in Australian flying foxes

Jianning Wang, Danielle E. Anderson, Kim Halpin, Xiao Hong, Honglei Chen, Som Walker, Stacey Valdeter, Brenda van der Heide, Matthew J. Neave, John Bingham, Dwane O’Brien, Debbie Eagles, Lin-Fa Wang and David T. Williams

Virology Journal 2021 18:197

Friday, October 08, 2021

Assisted reproductive techniques: online collection

Assisted reproductive techniques are becoming more common in equine breeding, not least within the sport horse world. The Equine Veterinary Journal (EVJ) is sharing the latest knowledge on assisted reproductive techniques (ARTs) through a special virtual collection that is free to view until 27 December 2021.


While the main reason for developing the ARTs was their potential to accelerate genetic improvement by allowing more offspring to be produced from the best stallions and/or mares, early uptake in practice has been biased towards their capacity to salvage the breeding career of valuable horses suffering from persistent sub-fertility. Editor Tom Stout and guest editor Huw Griffiths have brought together a collection of 14 selected articles published recently in EVJ that have contributed to the advance of equine ARTs. 

Photo of an oocyte immediately after sperm injection. The sperm can be seen in the middle of the oocyte. The small round ball at the top of the oocyte is the first polar body - showing that the oocyte is mature and ready for fertilization

“While some ERT techniques such as embryo transfer and in vitro production are technically complex and not yet optimised, they have proven to be powerful techniques for resolving sub- fertility,” said Tom Stout. “Further studies into factors limiting their success may not only lead to future improvements but also yield information useful to tackling specific causes of sub-fertility in mares or stallions used for natural mating or AI. This collection shares current knowledge.”


Ensuring that mating or artificial insemination (AI) take place close to the time of ovulation is a central part of successful breeding management. Several articles cover aspects of ensuring sperm and egg meet at the optimal time and in optimal conditions. Another discusses the challenges of creating an appropriate environment for early embryo development. 


In vitro production (IVP) has only become commercially viable in equine practice during the past 10 years. Parts of the collection cover the development of IVP and some of the obstacles encountered including incidences of monozygotic multiple pregnancies and potential problems with the mare of advanced age. 


An advantage of IVP is that the embryos are amenable to cryopreservation with no appreciable difference in pregnancy rates between freshly transferred and cryopreserved ICSI embryos. Several articles discuss methods of cryopreservation and vitrification protocols.

“As our knowledge progresses so does our capacity to use ARTs to best effect, to preserve important lineages, reduce inherited disease risks and enhance welfare,” said Professor Celia Marr, Editor of the EVJ.

“This collection makes for invaluable reading, not only for those working in equine reproduction but for those vets who have a general interest in the continued advancement of science and the inextricable and growing links ART has to successful equine breeding.”

The virtual issue will be free to view until 27 December 2021, and can be found at:

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Invitation to participate in Equine Cushing’s blue light research

Researchers at University College Dublin are collaborating with researchers at the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Centre in a large-scale study to investigate the effects of blue light treatment in horses with PPID (Pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction; equine Cushing’s disease) over a 12-month period.  


The research team is led by Dr. Barbara Anne Murphy, Head of Equine Science within the School of Agriculture and Food Science at University College Dublin (UCD) in close collaboration with Dr. Amanda Adams at the Gluck Centre. 


The team at UCD are looking for owners of PPID horses/ponies that meet a specific set of criteria to investigate if blue light treatment can influence the symptoms of this debilitating condition of older horses. 


Suitable participants will be randomly assigned to either treatment (fitted with an Equilume light mask) or control (no additional light exposure) groups. However, all will receive a receive a blue light mask (Value: c€700/$700) for assisting with the project, either at the beginning, or the end of the study, depending on whether they are selected for the treatment or the control group.


The researchers explain that the control group is as important as the treatment group and will allow the collection of valuable data related to the seasonal changes in symptoms of PPID horses. The data collected will contribute significantly to knowledge of how PPID horses’ coat condition is affected throughout the year, and the results will help with the future management of this important condition.


A limited number of horses/or ponies will be included in each treatment group, and the research team are looking to recruit the most suitable participants.


If you own or manage a horse or pony diagnosed with PPID, and which displays hypertrichosis (long curly hair coat), you can complete a short questionnaire to see if you are eligible to participate. Both medicated (e.g. Pergolide) and unmedicated horses/ponies are suitable. 


SinĂ©ad Parmantier, a Master’s student at UCD, and one of the research team, explains: “We have a strict set of criteria for selecting participants to allow our study to be as scientifically rigorous as it can be.”


She adds: “Even if an owner’s horse is not selected for the study, the information they provide about how their horse is managed will help greatly with improving our understanding of this important condition in older horses/ponies. They will also be asked if they would like to be kept informed of the results by providing an email. “ 


It is important to note that participation requires the monthly collection of hair samples from your horse/pony, the submission of photographs and the completion of bi-monthly online questionnaires. 


Follow this link to complete the questionnaire if you own or manage a horse/pony with PPID and are interested in joining the study:


Participant applications will be accepted until Friday, October 22nd.