Strangles, caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi (S. equi), is the most frequently diagnosed infectious diseases of horses world-wide.
Researchers at the Animal Health Trust are exploiting new DNA sequencing techniques to identify genes that are critical to the ability of S. equi to cause Strangles. A greater understanding of which genes are required by S. equi to cause disease will inform and direct our work towards the development of an effective vaccine . We are particularly interested in ensuring that such vaccines can be used alongside the Strangles diagnostic tests such that infected animals can be differentiated from vaccinates (so-called DIVA).
Our greatly improved understanding of how S. equi causes disease has already enabled us to develop diagnostic tests that exploit genes and proteins specific to S. equi. In early 2013, new research conducted by our scientists confirmed that our Strangles blood test is significantly more accurate for measuring a horse’s immune response to S. equi, when compared to another test available on the market. You can read more about this research by clicking here. We have also developed a sensitive quantitative PCR test for S. equi, which sets new standards in quality control.
We are committed to making these diagnostic tests available in laboratories outside of the UK, to help vets and horse owners around the world prevent and eradicate this disease from horse populations. As a result of this work our group were the proud recipients of the British Horse Society’s welfare award in 2012 and the National Equine Forum’s Sir Colin Spedding Award in 2014.
MANAGING AND PREVENTING STRANGLES
There are around 600 outbreaks of Strangles reported each year in the UK alone. The causative bacterium, S. equi, is transmitted to naïve horses via the nose or mouth, either through contact with infected discharges or via water troughs or contaminated clothing and tack. Horses can also be silent carriers of the bacteria.
Signs of Strangles include fever, loss of appetite, depression, coughing, thick nasal discharge and pain, swelling and abscess formation in the lymph nodes under the jaw and in the throat region.
Diagnosis includes bacterial detection on nasopharyngeal swabs, guttural pouch washes and fluid collected from an abscess, all carried out by a local equine vet. The Animal Health Trust offers an effective Strangles blood test for raised or rising antibodies and a sensitive qPCR test for the detection of S. equi.
Treatment includes nursing care and anti-inflammatory medication followed by a guttural pouch wash at least three weeks post-resolution of clinical signs to confirm resolution of infection.
Strict biosecurity policies are recommended to reduce the risk of outbreaks and the spread of the disease, including quarantine, routine screening blood tests and implementing outbreak procedures following a confirmed or strongly suspected outbreak.
Further details can be found in the Guide to preventing equine contagious disease on page 4.
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STEPS stands for the Strategy to Eradicate and Prevent Strangles. View our recommended procedures to prevent outbreaks or minimize their severity.
HBLB STRANGLES GUIDELINES
Read HBLB's Strangles Guidelines in the Codes of Practice.
We've partnered with XL Equine to launch the Guide to Preventing Equine Contagious Disease, designed to help vets and owners work together.