What is respiratory infection?
Streptococcus zooepidemicus (S. zoo) causes respiratory disease in young horses, with up to 10% of young horses affected at any one point in time. Sick and coughing horses cannot be ridden, trained or race and so Streptococcus zooepiedemicus also causes significant economic cost to the equine industry in the UK and abroad.
Strains of Streptococcus zooepidemicus can also cause several other, sometimes life-threatening, diseases in horses, donkeys, camels, dogs, cats, goats, sheep, cattle, pigs, chickens, alpacas, cheetahs, dolphins, seals and even humans.
We know that the bacterium that causes Strangles shares over 97% DNA identity with Streptococcus zooepidemicus. Because of this we can also apply our knowledge of Strangles towards preventing diseases caused by this closely related pathogen.
Researching Streptococcus zooepidemicus
Our research, with the Wellcome Sanger Institute, is helping to define the diversity of different strains of Streptococcus zooepidemicus and trace outbreaks of disease throughout the world. By sequencing the DNA of more than 1,300 different strains recovered from sick and healthy animals, we will identify the key genes that enable these strains to cause so many different diseases in so many different animals.
We have already developed new DNA tests to identify animals infected with Streptococcus zooepidemicus. Now we plan to apply our knowledge of Strangles and our findings from new research to identify proteins important for Streptococcus zooepidemicus to attach to and survive in the equine respiratory tract. These proteins will then be exploited to develop new vaccines that prevent respiratory disease in young horses, before applying this research to prevent disease in other animals too.