The investigation of a chronic, seasonal dermatitis of horses in southwestern British Columbia is described. Typically the history indicated an insidious onset, followed by a gradual progression in the severity of the signs each year. Lesions appeared during the warmer months of the year and tended to regress during the winter. The clinical signs consisted of areas of pruritus and excoriation, affecting predominantly the ventral midline, mane and tailhead. In all cases corticosteroid therapy relieved the pruritus and allowed the lesions to heal.
The salient pathological findings were hyperkeratosis, spongiosis and a dermal infiltration of eosinophils together with mononuclear cells. These changes are typical of an allergic dermatitis, which has been recognized in many parts of the world as a hypersensitivity reaction to the bites of Culicoides spp. In this instance, the epidemiological findings relating to the geographic area, the local insect population and the distribution of lesions implicated Culicoides obsoletus as the etiological agent.
Horses; allergic dermatitis; Culicoides obsoletus; hypersensitivity; Ceratopogonidae
Insect bite hypersensitivity (IBH) is a chronic allergic dermatitis common in horses. Affected horses mainly react against antigens present in the saliva from the biting midges, Culicoides ssp, and occasionally black flies, Simulium ssp. Because of this insect dependency, the disease is clearly seasonal and prevalence varies between geographical locations. For two distinct horse breeds, we genotyped four microsatellite markers positioned within the MHC class II region and sequenced the highly polymorphic exons two from DRA and DRB3, respectively. Initially, 94 IBH-affected and 93 unaffected Swedish born Icelandic horses were tested for genetic association. These horses had previously been genotyped on the Illumina Equine SNP50 BeadChip, which made it possible to ensure that our study did not suffer from the effects of stratification. The second population consisted of 106 unaffected and 80 IBH-affected Exmoor ponies. We show that variants in the MHC class II region are associated with disease susceptibility (praw = 2.34 × 10−5), with the same allele (COR112:274) associated in two separate populations. In addition, we combined microsatellite and sequencing data in order to investigate the pattern of homozygosity and show that homozygosity across the entire MHC class II region is associated with a higher risk of developing IBH (p = 0.0013). To our knowledge this is the first time in any atopic dermatitis suffering species, including man, where the same risk allele has been identified in two distinct populations.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00251-011-0573-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Insect bite hypersensitivity; Summer eczema; ELA; MHC; Horse
Understanding the influence of non-susceptible hosts on vector-borne disease transmission is an important epidemiological problem. However, investigation of its impact can be complicated by uncertainty in the location of the hosts. Estimating the risk of transmission of African horse sickness (AHS) in Great Britain (GB), a virus transmitted by Culicoides biting midges, provides an insightful example because: (i) the patterns of risk are expected to be influenced by the presence of non-susceptible vertebrate hosts (cattle and sheep) and (ii) incomplete information on the spatial distribution of horses is available because the GB National Equine Database records owner, rather than horse, locations. Here, we combine land-use data with available horse owner distributions and, using a Bayesian approach, infer a realistic distribution for the location of horses. We estimate the risk of an outbreak of AHS in GB, using the basic reproduction number (R0), and demonstrate that mapping owner addresses as a proxy for horse location significantly underestimates the risk. We clarify the role of non-susceptible vertebrate hosts by showing that the risk of disease in the presence of many hosts (susceptible and non-susceptible) can be ultimately reduced to two fundamental factors: first, the abundance of vectors and how this depends on host density, and, second, the differential feeding preference of vectors among animal species.
epidemiology; dilution effect; vector-borne disease; basic reproduction number; Culicoides
African horse sickness is an economically highly important non-contagious but infectious Orbivirus disease that is transmitted by various species of Culicoides midges. The equids most severely affected by the virus are horses, ponies, and European donkeys; mules are somewhat less susceptible, and African donkeys and zebra are refractory to the devastating consequences of infection. In recent years, Bluetongue virus, an Orbivirus similar to African horse sickness, which also utilises Culicoides spp. as its vector, has drastically increased its range into previously unaffected regions in northern Europe, utilising indigenous vector species, and causing widespread economic damage to the agricultural sector. Considering these events, the current review outlines the history of African horse sickness, including information concerning virus structure, transmission, viraemia, overwintering ability, and the potential implications that an outbreak would have for Ireland. While the current risk for the introduction of African horse sickness to Ireland is considered at worst ‘very low’, it is important to note that prior to the 2006 outbreak of Bluetongue in northern Europe, both diseases were considered to be of equal risk to the United Kingdom (‘medium-risk’). It is therefore likely that any outbreak of this disease would have serious socio-economic consequences for Ireland due to the high density of vulnerable equids and the prevalence of Culicoides species, potentially capable of vectoring the virus.
African horse sickness; Culicoides spp.; Epizootic disease; Ireland
Summer eczema, allergic dermatitis of the horse, was studied on 275 affected horses in Finland in 1997–2007. Features of the horses, clinical signs of the disease and owners' opinions of aggravating factors were recorded. Differences, especially, between two of the native Scandinavian horse breeds, the Finnhorse and the Icelandic horse, were evaluated. The study was based on clinical examination and information from the owners. Of the horses, 50% were Finnhorses, 26% Icelandic horses and 24% consisted of different breeds of ponies and other horses. Of the Finnhorses, 76% had summer eczema by the age of 5 years, but in the Icelandic horses born in Finland the average age at onset was 7 years. The vast majority of the horses, 75%, had moderate clinical signs, while 16% showed severe and 9% mild. The severity of clinical signs did not depend on the duration of the disease nor was it related to the age at onset. The only linkage to severity was the breed of the horse or import from Iceland; New Forest ponies and imported Icelandic horses showed severe clinical signs significantly more often than Finnhorses. Of the owners, 38% regarded insects as the only aggravating factor, 24% mentioned several simultaneous factors, including grass fodder and sunlight, while 22% could not specify any. In Finland, a typical horse breed suffering from summer eczema is the Finnhorse and the characteristics of the disease are mainly uniform with the other breeds affected. Equine summer eczema seems to be aggravated by various combinations of environmental factors.
This paper investigates the commonalities in ethnoveterinary medicine used for horses between Trinidad (West Indies) and British Columbia (Canada). These research areas are part of a common market in pharmaceuticals and are both involved in the North American racing circuit. There has been very little research conducted on medicinal plants used for horses although their use is widespread. The data on ethnoveterinary medicines used for horses was obtained through key informant interviews with horse owners, trainers, breeders, jockeys, grooms and animal care specialists in two research areas: Trinidad and British Columbia (BC). A participatory validation workshop was held in BC. An extensive literature review and botanical identification of the plants was also done. In all, 20 plants were found to be used in treating racehorses in Trinidad and 97 in BC. Of these the most-evidently effective plants 19 of the plants used in Trinidad and 66 of those used in BC are described and evaluated in this paper. Aloe vera, Curcuma longa and Ricinus communis are used in both research areas. More research is needed in Trinidad to identify plants that respondents claimed were used in the past. Far more studies have been conducted on the temperate and Chinese medicinal plants used in BC and therefore these ethnoveterinary remedies reflect stronger evidence of efficacy.
Outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease of deer and of bluetongue began in British Columbia in August and October 1987 respectively and recrudescence of infection by both viruses was detected the following year in August. Weather records for up to 18 days before the initial outbreaks of disease, isolation of virus or seroconversion were examined to determine if the viruses could have been introduced by infected Culicoides carried on the wind. Data on temperature, rainfall, wind speed and direction and pressure together with backward trajectory analysis showed that there were suitable winds which could have introduced Culicoides infected with epizootic hemorrhagic disease of deer virus on 13 August 1987 (14 days before disease was observed), Culicoides infected with bluetongue virus on 1 October 1987 (7 days before virus was isolated and 13 days before disease in sheep) and Culicoides infected with bluetongue or epizootic hemorrhagic disease of deer viruses on 20 July 1988 (15 days before seroconversion was detected). The arrival on 13 August 1987 coincided with the passage of a cold front and rain and that on 1 October 1987 with a fall in temperature and calm winds. The source of the Culicoides before arrival could have been the Okanogan Valley as far south as the junction of the Okanogan and Columbia rivers in Washington, USA. Flight would have been at temperatures of 12.6 degrees C or higher and at heights up to 1.5 km.
Equine Multiple Congenital Ocular Anomalies (MCOA) syndrome is a heritable eye disorder mainly affecting silver colored horses. Clinically, the disease manifests in two distinct classes depending on the horse genotype. Horses homozygous for the mutant allele present with a wide range of ocular defects, such as iris stromal hypoplasia, abnormal pectinate ligaments, megaloglobus, iridociliary cysts and cataracts. The phenotype of heterozygous horses is less severe and predominantly includes iridociliary cysts, which occasionally extend into the temporal retina. In order to determine the genetic cause of MCOA syndrome we sequenced the entire previously characterized 208 kilobase region on chromosome 6 in ten individuals; five MCOA affected horses from three different breeds, one horse with the intermediate Cyst phenotype and four unaffected controls from two different breeds. This was performed using Illumina TruSeq technology with paired-end reads. Through the systematic exclusion of all polymorphisms barring two SNPs in PMEL, a missense mutation previously reported to be associated with the silver coat colour and a non-conserved intronic SNP, we establish that this gene is responsible for MCOA syndrome. Our finding, together with recent advances that show aberrant protein function due to the coding mutation, suggests that the missense mutation is causative and has pleiotrophic effect, causing both the horse silver coat color and MCOA syndrome.
Insect bite hypersensitivity is a common allergic disease in horse populations worldwide. Insect bite hypersensitivity is affected by both environmental and genetic factors. However, little is known about genes contributing to the genetic variance associated with insect bite hypersensitivity. Therefore, the aim of our study was to identify and quantify genomic associations with insect bite hypersensitivity in Shetland pony mares and Icelandic horses in the Netherlands.
Data on 200 Shetland pony mares and 146 Icelandic horses were collected according to a matched case–control design. Cases and controls were matched on various factors (e.g. region, sire) to minimize effects of population stratification. Breed-specific genome-wide association studies were performed using 70 k single nucleotide polymorphisms genotypes. Bayesian variable selection method Bayes-C with a threshold model implemented in GenSel software was applied. A 1 Mb non-overlapping window approach that accumulated contributions of adjacent single nucleotide polymorphisms was used to identify associated genomic regions.
The percentage of variance explained by all single nucleotide polymorphisms was 13% in Shetland pony mares and 28% in Icelandic horses. The 20 non-overlapping windows explaining the largest percentages of genetic variance were found on nine chromosomes in Shetland pony mares and on 14 chromosomes in Icelandic horses. Overlap in identified associated genomic regions between breeds would suggest interesting candidate regions to follow-up on. Such regions common to both breeds (within 15 Mb) were found on chromosomes 3, 7, 11, 20 and 23. Positional candidate genes within 2 Mb from the associated windows were identified on chromosome 20 in both breeds. Candidate genes are within the equine lymphocyte antigen class II region, which evokes an immune response by recognizing many foreign molecules.
The genome-wide association study identified several genomic regions associated with insect bite hypersensitivity in Shetland pony mares and Icelandic horses. On chromosome 20, associated genomic regions in both breeds were within 2 Mb from the equine lymphocyte antigen class II region. Increased knowledge on insect bite hypersensitivity associated genes will contribute to our understanding of its biology, enabling more efficient selection, therapy and prevention to decrease insect bite hypersensitivity prevalence.
There are no detailed, representative, horse-level data about equine management practices in different parts of Canada. To help address this, the demographics, management, and welfare of 312 nonracing horses in Prince Edward Island were examined in a randomized, horse-level survey during summer 2002. Owners completed a pretested questionnaire, and a veterinarian examined each horse. Owners were experienced caregivers and the horses were generally in good condition. Areas for improvement included parasite control, dental and hoof care, and tail docking. The mean fecal egg count was 428 eggs per gram; 76% of owners never removed manure from the pasture. Sixty-two percent of horses had never had a veterinary dental examination. Many horses had hoof defects (excessively long hooves, 26.8%; hoof wall breaks, 32.0%; and white line disease, 8.5%). Many (54.9%) draft horses had docked tails. These results suggest owners might benefit their horses by receiving education in aspects of equine care.
Five horses were presented because of a dermatitis of the forehead. Unlike previous reports, ventral midline dermatitis was not the major problem, and was present in only two of five cases. All five horses responded to levamisole therapy at a daily dosage of 5.5 g for one week. Owners were cautioned that repeat therapy may be necessary.
A survival analysis was used to compare the culling rate of Icelandic horses due to the presence of radiographic and clinical signs of bone spavin. A follow-up study of 508 horses from a survey five years earlier was performed. In the original survey 46% of the horses had radiographic signs of bone spavin (RS) and/or lameness after flexion test of the tarsus. The horse owners were interviewed by telephone. The owners were asked if the horses were still used for riding and if not, they were regarded as culled. The owners were then asked when and why the horses were culled. During the 5 years, 98 horses had been culled, 151 had been withdrawn (sold or selected for breeding) and 259 were still used for riding. Hind limb lameness (HLL) was the most common reason for culling (n = 42). The rate of culling was low up to the age of 11 years, when it rose to 0.05 for horses with RS. The risk ratio for culling was twice as high for horses with RS compared with horses without RS and 5.5 times higher for culling because of HLL. The risk of culling (prognostic value) was highest for the combination of RS with lameness after flexion test, next highest for RS and lowest for lameness after flexion test as the only finding.
It was concluded that bone spavin affects the duration of use of Icelandic horses and is the most common cause of culling due to disease of riding horses in the age range of 7–17 years.
Icelandic horses; bone spavin osteoarthroses; survival analysis; questionnaire
Salivary proteins of Culicoides biting midges are thought to play a key role in summer eczema (SE), a seasonal recurrent allergic dermatitis in horses. The present study describes the identification, expression and clinical relevance of a candidate allergen of the North American midge Culicoides sonorensis. Immunoblot analysis of midge saliva revealed a 66 kDa protein (Cul s 1) that was bound by IgE from several SE-affected (SE+) horses. Further characterization by fragmentation, mass spectrometry and bioinformatics identified Cul s 1 as maltase, an enzyme involved in sugar meal digestion. A cDNA encoding Cul s 1 was isolated and expressed as a polyhistidine-tagged fusion protein in a baculovirus/insect cell expression system. The clinical relevance of the affinity-purified recombinant Cul s 1 (rCul s 1) was investigated by immunoblotting, histamine release testing (HRT) and intradermal testing (IDT) in eight SE+ and eight control horses. Seven SE+ horses had rCul s 1-specific IgE, whereas only one control animal had IgE directed against this allergen. Furthermore, the HRT showed rCul s 1 induced basophil degranulation in samples from seven of eight SE+ horses but in none of the control animals. rCul s 1 also induced immediate (7/8), late-phase (8/8) and delayed (1/8) skin reactivity in IDT on all SE+ horses that had a positive test with the whole body extract (WBE) of C. sonorensis. None of the control horses showed immediate or delayed skin reactivity with rCul s 1, and only one control horse had a positive late-phase response, while several non-specific late-phase reactions were observed with the insect WBE. Thus, we believe rCul s 1 is the first specific salivary allergen of C. sonorensis to be described that promises to advance both in vitro and in vivo diagnosis and may contribute to the development of immunotherapy for SE in horses.
Culicoides spp.; Summer eczema; Salivary proteins; Recombinant allergens; Immunoblotting; Histamine release test; Intradermal testing
Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) species are known to be the vectors of Bluetongue virus and African Horses Sickness virus (AHSV) in different areas of the world. Nevertheless, other researchers have hypothesized that these arthropods could be involved in the transmission of other pathogens such as Schmallenberg virus, Plasmodium and Leishmania parasites. Identification of the Culicoides’ potential vector competence is crucial in understanding the worldwide Culicoides/Leishmania life cycle.
Blood fed and parous females of biting midges Culicoides spp. were collected between 2009 and 2010 in Central Tunisia. DNA was extracted from individual blood fed Culicoides and used as a template in a genus-specific PCR. Leishmania DNA was detected in 14 Culicoides imicola specimens and one Culicoides circumscriptus. In a second step, parasite identification was performed based on a single copy Topo-isomerase II gene specific amplification and sequencing. Leishmania infantum was identified in two infected Culicoides spp.
This is the first report of Leishmania DNA detection from naturally infected wild caught Culicoides spp. Our finding supports the assumption that Culicoides spp. are a potential vector for L. infantum.
Vector competence; Biting midge; Leishmania transmission
A questionnaire survey regarding endoparasite control practices in Danish horse herds was carried out in 1995. The participating veterinarians and herd owners were sampled using convenience and purposive sampling. In the analysis of risk factors for development of a high endoparasitic burden (>200 eggs per gram faeces) 903 horses were sampled and the analysis of the efficiency of a single anthelmintic treatment was based on 605 horses. The following factors had a significant effect on the endoparasitic burden: herd type, age of the horses, use of pasture rotation, anthelmintic treatment of horses visiting the herd, use of an adviser in the planning of endoparasite control and advice regarding pasture rotation. An interaction between pasture rotation and advice regarding pasture rotation was found, but due to high collinearity this was not reported. The factors influencing significantly on the reduction of the faecal egg count after a single anthelmintic treatment were the type of herd, the age of the horse, the drug used, and the anthelmintic-resistance-status of the herd. A negative effect of permanent pastures was observed. If pasture hygiene was performed on the advice of the veterinarian, the effect of a single anthelmintic treatment was less compared to a single anthelmintic treatment without any advice. An interaction between the treatment group and the resistance-status of the herd was found. Additional factors, normally accounted for, when endoparasites and anthelmintic resistance is discussed, were investigated, but not found significant in this study.
endoparasites; epidemiology; anthelmintic; resistance
In North America, there are few representative data about the effects of management practices on equine welfare. In a randomized survey of 312 nonracing horses in Prince Edward Island (response rate 68.4%), owners completed a pretested questionnaire and a veterinarian examined each horse. Regression analyses identified factors affecting 2 welfare markers: body condition score (BCS) and stereotypic behavior. Horses’ BCSs were high (mean 5.7, on a 9-point scale) and were associated with sex (males had lower BCSs than females; P < 0.001) and examination date (P = 0.052). Prevalences of crib biting, wind sucking, and weaving were 3.8%, 3.8%, and 4.8%, respectively. Age (OR = 1.07, P = 0.08) and hours worked weekly (OR = 1.12, P = 0.03) were risk factors for weaving. Straw bedding (OR = 0.3, P = 0.03), daily hours at pasture (OR = 0.94, P = 0.02), and horse type (drafts and miniatures had a lower risk than light horses; P = 0.12) reduced the risk of horses showing oral stereotypies. Some of these results contradict those of other studies perhaps because of populations concerned.
Multiple congenital ocular anomalies (MCOA) syndrome is a hereditary congenital eye defect that was first described in Silver colored Rocky Mountain horses. The mutation causing this disease is located within a defined chromosomal interval, which also contains the gene and mutation that is associated with the Silver coat color (PMEL17, exon 11). Horses that are homozygous for the disease-causing allele have multiple defects (MCOA-phenotype), whilst the heterozygous horses predominantly have cysts of the iris, ciliary body or retina (Cyst-phenotype). It has been argued that these ocular defects are caused by a recent mutation that is restricted to horses that are related to the Rocky Mountain Horse breed. For that reason we have examined another horse breed, the Icelandic horse, which is historically quite divergent from Rocky Mountain horses.
We examined 24 Icelandic horses and established that the MCOA syndrome is present in this breed. Four of these horses were categorised as having the MCOA-phenotype and were genotyped as being homozygous for the PMEL17 mutation. The most common clinical signs included megaloglobus, iris stromal hypoplasia, abnormal pectinate ligaments, iridociliary cysts occasionally extending into the peripheral retina and cataracts. The cysts and pectinate ligament abnormalities were observed in the temporal quadrant of the eyes. Fourteen horses were heterozygous for the PMEL17 mutation and were characterized as having the Cyst-phenotype with cysts and occasionally curvilinear streaks in the peripheral retina. Three additional horses were genotyped as PMEL17 heterozygotes, but in these horses we were unable to detect cysts or other forms of anomalies.
One eye of a severely vision-impaired 18 month-old stallion, homozygous for the PMEL17 mutation was examined by light microscopy. Redundant duplication of non-pigmented ciliary body epithelium, sometimes forming cysts bulging into the posterior chamber and localized areas of atrophy in the peripheral retina were seen.
The MCOA syndrome is segregating with the PMEL17 mutation in the Icelandic Horse population. This needs to be taken into consideration in breeding decisions and highlights the fact that MCOA syndrome is present in a breed that are more ancient and not closely related to the Rocky Mountain Horse breed.
The Icelandic horse is a pristine breed of horse which has a pure gene pool established more than a thousand years ago, and is approximately the same size as living and extinct wild breeds of horses. This study was performed to compare the length of the skeletal growth period of the "primitive" Icelandic horse relative to that reported for large horse breeds developed over the recent centuries. This information would provide practical guidance to owners and veterinarians as to when the skeleton is mature enough to commence training, and would be potentially interesting to those scientists investigating the pathogenesis of osteochondrosis. Interestingly, osteochondrosis has not been documented in the Icelandic horse.
The radiographic closure time of the appendicular growth plates was studied in 64 young Icelandic horses. The results were compared with previously published closure times reported for other, larger horse breeds. The radiographs were also examined for any signs of developmental orthopaedic diseases. In order to describe further the growth pattern of the Icelandic horse, the total serum alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity was determined and the height at the withers was measured.
Most of the examined growth plates were fully closed at the age of approximately three years. The horses reached adult height at this age; however ALP activity was still mildly increased over baseline values. The growth plates in the digits were the first to close at 8.1 to 8.5 months of age, and those in the regions of the distal radius (27.4 to 32.0 months), tuber olecrani (31.5 to 32.2 months), and the stifle (27.0 to 40.1 months) were the last to close. No horse was found to have osteochondrosis type lesions in the neighbouring joints of the evaluated growth plates.
The Icelandic horse appears to have similar radiographic closure times for most of the growth plates of its limbs as reported for large new breeds of horses developed during the past few centuries. It thus appears that different breeding goals and the intensity of breeding have not altered the length of the growth period in horses. Instead, it can be assumed that the pristine and relatively small Icelandic horse has a slower rate of growth. The appendicular skeleton of Icelandic horses has completed its bone growth in length at approximately 3 years of age, and therefore may be able to enter training at this time.
In 1987 a serological survey of cattle for antibodies (Ab) to bluetongue virus (BTV) and epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV) was undertaken in British Columbia and southwestern Alberta after infection with the viruses was diagnosed in wild and domestic ruminants in the Okanagan Valley. Of 4610 cattle tested, five had Ab only to BTV, 125 had antibodies only to EHDV and 16 had Ab to both viruses. The Ab were identified as specific for BTV type 11 (BT-11) or EHDV type 2 (EHDV-2). All but one of the seropositive cattle originated in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. The remaining one seropositive animal which had Ab to EHDV-2 was pastured with a bull purchased from the Okanagan Valley.
The syndrome Multiple Congenital Ocular Anomalies (MCOA) is the collective name ascribed to heritable congenital eye defects in horses. Individuals homozygous for the disease allele (MCOA phenotype) have a wide range of eye anomalies, while heterozygous horses (Cyst phenotype) predominantly have cysts that originate from the temporal ciliary body, iris, and/or peripheral retina. MCOA syndrome is highly prevalent in the Rocky Mountain Horse but the disease is not limited to this breed. Affected horses most often have a Silver coat color; however, a pleiotropic link between these phenotypes is yet to be proven. Locating and possibly isolating these traits would provide invaluable knowledge to scientists and breeders. This would favor maintenance of a desirable coat color while addressing the health concerns of the affected breeds, and would also provide insight into the genetic basis of the disease. Identical-by-descent mapping was used to narrow the previous 4.6-Mb region to a 264-kb interval for the MCOA locus. One haplotype common to four breeds showed complete association to the disease (Cyst phenotype, n = 246; MCOA phenotype, n = 83). Candidate genes from the interval, SMARCC2 and IKZF4, were screened for polymorphisms and genotyped, and segregation analysis allowed the MCOA syndrome region to be shortened to 208 kb. This interval also harbors PMEL17, the gene causative for Silver coat color. However, by shortening the MCOA locus by a factor of 20, 176 other genes have been unlinked from the disease and only 15 genes remain.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00335-011-9325-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Culicoides biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) are the biological vectors of globally significant arboviruses of livestock including bluetongue virus (BTV), African horse sickness virus (AHSV) and the recently emerging Schmallenberg virus (SBV). From 2006–2009 outbreaks of BTV in northern Europe inflicted major disruption and economic losses to farmers and several attempts were made to implicate Palaearctic Culicoides species as vectors. Results from these studies were difficult to interpret as they used semi-quantitative RT-PCR (sqPCR) assays as the major diagnostic tool, a technique that had not been validated for use in this role. In this study we validate the use of these assays by carrying out time-series detection of BTV RNA in two colony species of Culicoides and compare the results with the more traditional isolation of infectious BTV on cell culture.
A BTV serotype 1 strain mixed with horse blood was fed to several hundred individuals of Culicoides sonorensis (Wirth & Jones) and C. nubeculosus (Mg.) using a membrane-based assay and replete individuals were then incubated at 25°C. At daily intervals 25 Culicoides of each species were removed from incubation, homogenised and BTV quantified in each individual using sqPCR (Cq values) and virus isolation on a KC-C. sonorensis embryonic cell line, followed by antigen enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). In addition, comparisons were also drawn between the results obtained with whole C. sonorensis and with individually dissected individuals to determine the level of BTV dissemination.
Cq values generated from time-series infection experiments in both C. sonorensis and C. nubeculosus confirmed previous studies that relied upon the isolation and detection of infectious BTV. Implications on the testing of field-collected Culicoides as potential virus vectors by PCR assays and the use of such assays as front-line tools for use in diagnostic laboratories in this role are discussed.
A cross sectional study was designed to estimate the prevalence of summer eczema (a chronic, recurrent seasonal dermatitis) in exported Icelandic horses and the influence of environmental and genetic factors on the development of the disease.
Among 330 horses, which had been exported to Germany, Denmark and Sweden, 114 (34.5%) were found to have clinical signs of summer eczema. The prevalence was highest 2 years after export and the exposure to the biting midges Culicoides spp., was found to be the main risk factor for developing the disease. Genetic influence on the sensitivity for the disease was not established.
It was concluded that exported Icelandic horses are predisposed for summer dermatitis and the fact that they are not introduced to the antigens of the biting midges early in live, due to it's absence in Iceland, is likely to explain the high prevalence of the disease after export.
A retrospective survey of 300 surgical treatments for colic involving 341 interventions was carried out to determine mortality rates and associated factors. These horses had been referred to the Ontario Veterinary College over the period September 1974 to February 1980. Data from the case records was collected and stored on a computer and statistical analysis was carried out using X2 tests.
Fifty percent (150/300) of the horses survived to be discharged from the hospital. Fifty-two horses were euthanized during the operation and another ten horses should have been; if these cases are excluded the overall survival rate is 64.7% (150/232). A wide range of breeds were involved but the breed did not significantly affect survival. There was a significantly greater occurrence of serious colic in the two week to two month and one to two year age groups and significantly less in the two to four year age groups when compared with the total number of horses admitted over the same period. There was an even distribution of male and female horses but males showed a significantly lower mortality rate (57% of the males survived compared with 43% of the females). The size of the animal did not affect survival significantly. There was no seasonal variation when compared with the total number of equine patients.
Survival was significantly influenced by the lesion, the preoperative packed cell volume and total plasma protein and by the length of the surgical procedure.
In a stable of eight horses in Northern Iceland, six horses presented with clinical signs, such as ataxia and reduced appetite, leading to euthanasia of one severely affected horse. Serological investigations revealed no evidence of active equine herpes virus type 1 infection, a common source of central nervous system disease in horses, nor equine arteritis virus and West Nile virus. Another neurotropic virus, Borna disease virus, was therefore included in the differential diagnosis list.
Serological investigations revealed antibodies against Borna disease virus in four of five horses with neurological signs in the affected stable. One horse without clinical signs was seronegative. Four clinically healthy horses in the stable that arrived and were sampled one year after the outbreak were found seronegative, whereas one of four investigated healthy horses in an unaffected stable was seropositive.
This report contains the first evidence of antibodies to Borna disease virus in Iceland. Whether Borna disease virus was the cause of the neurological signs could however not be confirmed by pathology or molecular detection of the virus. As Iceland has very restricted legislation regarding animal imports, the questions of how this virus has entered the country and to what extent markers of Bornavirus infection can be found in humans and animals in Iceland remain to be answered.
Borna disease; Neurological disease; Serology; Epidemiology; Horse
Free-ranging horses (Equus caballus) in North America are considered to be feral animals since they are descendents of non-native domestic horses introduced to the continent. We conducted a study in a southern California desert to understand how feral horse movements and horse feces impacted this arid ecosystem. We evaluated five parameters susceptible to horse trampling: soil strength, vegetation cover, percent of nonnative vegetation, plant species diversity, and macroinvertebrate abundance. We also tested whether or not plant cover and species diversity were affected by the presence of horse feces.
Horse trailing resulted in reduced vegetation cover, compacted soils, and in cases of intermediate intensity disturbance, increased plant species diversity. The presence of horse feces did not affect plant cover, but it did increase native plant diversity.
Adverse impacts, such as soil compaction and increased erosion potential, were limited to established horse trails. In contrast, increased native plant diversity near trails and feces could be viewed as positive outcomes. Extensive trailing can result in a surprisingly large impact area: we estimate that < 30 horses used > 25 km2 of trails in our study area.