Strangles can be eradicated – with the Thoroughbred industry leading the way

The Strangles Workshop recently held at the fabulous Animal Health Trust (AHT) Visitor Centre provided a fascinating insight into the complex and ground breaking disease surveillance and research underway into this disease. Strangles is endemic across most of the world, with evidence that more than 600 outbreaks are identified annually in the UK alone, but thankfully very few of these occur in British racehorses.

New research at the AHT, which was presented at the meeting, tracked the international spread of Streptococcus equi, the cause of strangles, through 22 countries from around the World. “Our results showed that European countries generously share their populations of Streptococcus equi, but we also saw exchange of strains in the UK with the USA, South America, Australia and the United Arab Emirates” explained Dr Andrew Waller, Head of Bacteriology at the AHT. “We believe that outwardly healthy persistently infected ‘carrier’ horses could be to blame for the international transport of strangles.” Recognising the risks of introducing strangles via the international transport of horses, the authorities in Dubai now insist on the mandatory testing of blood samples from horses for exposure to strangles pre-export. Dr. Waller said “Early findings indicate that this intervention has helped to identify carriers before they had the opportunity to introduce strangles to Dubai, preventing new outbreaks and breaking the cycle of disease.”

Although strangles is complex, the meeting consistently delivered this strong message “Strangles can be prevented.” Dr Richard Newton, Director of Epidemiology and Surveillance at the AHT described methods to prevent strangles from getting into a yard and to eradicate it should the worst happen. Dr Newton explained; “Although strangles is uncommon among racehorses in training, it is a disease, along with equine influenza and neurological equine herpes virus, which requires trainers to immediately notify the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) so that effective steps can be taken to prevent its spread through the racing network. The rarity of strangles in racing is undoubtedly linked to the zero-tolerance that the industry has to it, such that trainers, their vets and the BHA all work closely together to control and eradicate the disease when it occurs.” Dr Newton continued, “It is important that racing remains vigilant and in particular becomes open to adopting wider preventive strategies such as quarantining and screening batches of horses entering training for the first time and those returning from events, such as international meetings, where there may be a heightened risk of introducing a range of infectious diseases including strangles.”

 

For further information, please contact: Rebecca Calver, AHT press office, 01638 751000 ext. 1572

 

The Animal Health Trust (AHT) is the UK’s leading veterinary and scientific research charity, dedicated to the health and wellbeing of dogs, cats and horses.  It aims to improve the health and welfare of horses, dogs and cats through research, but also provides specialist referral services and continuous education to vets. Throughout 2017, the AHT is celebrating its 75th Anniversary – that’s 75 years of leading science and care for animals. Visit the website www.aht.org.uk