Equine Piroplasmosis Spreading To More-Temperate Regions

A recent study shows that equine piroplasmosis (EP) is spreading to more-temperate areas of the world where it has not yet been found. A parasitic infection, EP can be spread by ticks and through contaminated needles, syringes, surgical equipment and products through blood contact.

Horses that have piroplasmosis have a high fever, go off their feed and are lethargic. Their legs may swell, as does their spleen; they have a rapid heart rate and urine discoloration. Affected horses may die; if the horse recovers, he will be recessive carrier of the disease for the rest of his life.

EP is common in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. An outbreak of piroplasmosis has economic consequences as it can halt international equine movement between endemic and non-endemic regions.

Drs. Sharon Tirosh-Levy, Yuval Gottlieb, Lindsay Fry, Donald Knowles and Amir Steinman analyzed the serological, epidemiological, and molecular diagnostic data on EP published in the last 20 years to better understand how prevalent the parasites that cause the disease are.

The team concluded that EP is endemic in most parts of the world and that it is spreading into more-temperate climates that had previously been considered free from the parasite. It’s estimated that 90 percent of the horses in the world live in areas where EP is endemic.

There is no vaccine for EP; control of the disease includes a combination of medications, vector control and limited transport of infected horses. Treatment and control strategies differ between endemic and non-endemic regions. The United States, Australia, and Japan are non-endemic countries that deny EP-positive horses entrance to their countries; these countries quarantine, export or euthanize infected horses.

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