Sunday, June 23, 2013

General Information On EPM In Horses

By Lila Barry

Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, which may also be referred to as EPM, is a disease that affects horses. EPM in horses is the result of a protozoal infection within the central nervous system, CNS, of the animal. Jim Rooney, a doctor, was the first to discover this condition around the 1960s.

EPM is mostly rare. In recent years, there has been a notable increase in the amount of cases reported. Research that was done at University of Kentucky concluded that the opossum is the definitive disease host.

The cause of EPM is two types of parasites: Sarcocystis neurona and Neospora hughesi. Much more information is known about the former than the latter. In fact, it is known that Sarcocystis neurona requires two hosts in order to fully complete a life cycle. One must be intermediate and the second must be definitive. In laboratories, sea otters, armadillos, skunks, raccoons and cats have all been known to act as intermediate hosts.

Opossum is recognized as the host for this disease. Typically the parasite is contracted by horses who graze or water in areas nearby defecation of possums. The animals cannot pass EPM along alone, which is to say that an uninfected horse cannot contract it from an infected animal. The animal is known as an aberrant of these parasites.

There are symptoms to look out for when identifying the presence of this disease. The most common of signs includes spasticity, weakness and incoordination. Although signs can vary and mimic those of any type of neurological disorder. Overall, these problems are considered secondary or primary. Some of the symptoms are less easy to identify and categorize. Other warning signs to keep an eye on: snoring, general or focal muscle atrophy, laryngeal hemiplegia.

It is still unknown how the Sarcocystis neurona is able to enter the central nervous system of this animal. However, it is believed to infect the white blood cells in order to cross through the blood brain barrier. Luckily, this problem is treatable. With that said, there may be some irreversible damage done to the system of a horse.

It is crucial that the problem be identified early on so that treatment can be issued, in the form of antiprotozoal drugs. There are currently two treatments available that have been approved by the FDA for use in the US: Marquis, Protazil. To limit potential damage to CNS and reduce any inflammation, anti-inflammatory medicines are often prescribed. Using antioxidants can help with restoring the nervous tissue. To control or prevent this condition, owners are encourage to correctly store horse hay and feed, control the opossums in an area and quickly dispose of carcasses. These is not a vaccine for this available on the market.

EPM in horses is mostly a rare occurrence. It was first discovered by a doctor named Jim Rooney circa the 1960s. This disease, which occurs in the central nervous system of these animals, is the result of two parasites. There are many signs and symptoms associated with this condition that can help identify the presence of the disease. Animals that receive prompt treatment are likely to make a full recovery with treatment. In some situations, damage that is irreversible may be done to the nervous system of the horse.

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