Strangles: A Worldwide Problem That Researchers Say Needs Better Monitoring

One of the more common equine respiratory diseases is strangles, a contagious bacterial infection caused by Streptococcus equi. Most horses recover from strangles with no complications, though the disease can make some horses very sick. Ten percent of horses remain carriers once they are infected, meaning they don’t show clinical signs, but they can spread the disease.

Because of the potential significant health and welfare consequences – and the economic costs associated with the disease – finding additional information about the strangles is crucial.

Dr. Catriona Mitchell and colleagues from 18 countries used DNA sequencing techniques to analyze 670 Streptococcus equi isolates from 19 countries. The researchers found different variants of the disease. Strangles in the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and Argentina are closely linked. The research team determined that the movement of horses and global trade help spread the disease.

The team suggests that labs utilize an online surveillance platform called Pathogenwatch to monitor the emergence and spread of new strains of strangles. This will assist with interventions and policy-making decisions.

The authors suggest that strangles be recognized by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) as an internationally important disease. They also suggest that identifying horses that are infected with strangles before or immediately after travel would limit the movement of the disease.

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