Steroid ReSponsive Meningitis
Although not fully understood, Beagle Pain Syndrome, clinically known as Steroid Responsive Meningitis Arteritis (SRMA or SRM), is thought to be an autoimmune condition that can affect any breed of dog. Given that certain breeds are over represented with SRM there is a possibility of genetic predisposition.
Meningitis is a disease that affects the meninges, or the membranes that cover the central nervous system. Most of the time it is contracted as the result of a bacterial or viral infection, but with SRM parts of the body will be falsely recognised as foreign and attacked by the immune system.
SRM most commonly develops in Beagles between six and eight months of age, although has been observed as early as 10 weeks and up to two years old. The condition can either be acute or chronic and typical symptoms are fever, intense neck pain, a stiff gait and depression. Diagnosis can be made through a spinal tap as well as other laboratory tests, X-rays and CT scans.
The disease can be controlled through immunosuppressive steroid medication, which helps relieve the inflammation of the spinal cord. Therapy usually begins with high doses of steroids, which are then tapered down slowly over time and after a period on a low dose with no problems, steroid therapy can stop completely if advised by your vet. Some dogs will never need steroid therapy again, while others may need to stay on a low dose for the rest of their lives.
In 2010 the Canine Genetics team at the AHT, funded by generous donations from several beagle clubs from around the country and from many individuals, conducted a study into SRM in Beagles. A whole genome association scan was carried out on DNA samples from 47 Beagles (26 affected cases and 21 control cases). This type of scan allows us to compare the genomes of dogs affected with SRM to the genomes of healthy dogs (control cases) and to pinpoint any regions where a clear difference can be seen. Such regions are likely to be associated with the disease and may contain mutations in genes that are involved with SRM.
Although the genotyping was carried out successfully, the study failed to identify any regions of the genome which were clearly and significantly associated with the disease.
Since then we have been collecting additional samples for a larger study and in 2013 we achieved our target of collecting enough samples for a study with 48 cases and 48 controls. We also successfully applied for a grant from the Petplan Charitable Trust to carry out some of this work and during 2014 and early 2015 we will be undertaking this new study; click here to read a full report of the work carried out to date.
Q. Which dogs can contribute to the AHT’s SRM research?
A. There are two types of dog that are useful to our research:
- Dogs that have been diagnosed with SRM, with a copy of the clinical diagnosis
- Dogs over the age of five years old that are free of SRM.