AAEP Publishes Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis Guidelines

A mare and a yearling in pasture near a run-down out-bui
A mare and a yearling in pasture near a run-down out-bui bddigitalimage

Newsdate: Monday, February 22, 2021 - 11:35 am
Location: LEXINGTON, Kentucky

The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) has published on its website comprehensive guidelines to assist practitioners with identification, diagnosis and control of Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM), a progressively debilitating disease of the central nervous system that affects horses that reside or once spent time in North or South America.

Two skunks scavaging for food - possible intermediate hosts of protozoa.

Two skunks scavaging for food - possible intermediate hosts of protozoa

Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis*1 is widely considered the most important infectious neurologic disease of horses in North America.
© 2018 by Tomfriedel New window.

“EPM is widely considered the most important infectious neurologic disease of horses in North America,” said guidelines author Amy Johnson, DVM, DACVIM. “The variable clinical signs and widespread seroprevalence pose challenges to diagnosis. These guidelines aim to summarize essential information regarding this disease process, as well as highlight the three criteria for highest diagnostic accuracy in potentially affected horses.”

The EPM Guidelines, available as a PDF file, were reviewed and approved by the AAEP’s Infectious Disease Committee and board of directors. View the EPM Guidelines or save them to your mobile device for future reference at https://aaep.org/sites/default/files/Guidelines/EPM_Disease_Guidelines_2021.pdf.

Besides EPM, AAEP guidelines for 20 other equine infectious diseases are available at https://aaep.org/guidelines/infectious-disease-control/using-guidelines. In addition, two foreign animal disease guidelines—for African horse sickness and Glanders—can be found at https://aaep.org/infectious-disease-control/foreign-animal-disease-guidelines

*1EquiMed Editor Note:

Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis affects the central nervous system of the horse and usually begins gradually with few symptoms, but sometimes has a severe onset with immediate signs of neurological damage evidenced by a lack of limb coordination and loss of reflexes. Signs of spinal cord involvement are more common than signs of brain disease.

Most cases of EPM are caused by the protozoa Sarcocystis neurona, first identified in the 1980's. A few cases of EPM in the Americas and in Europe have been associated with Neospora hughesi, an organism that is closely related to S. neurona.

The predator host of the protozoa is believed to be the opossum. Opossums become infected by eating muscle tissue from infected prey and infectious cysts containing the protozoa are passed in the opossum's feces. The horse is infected when it eats forage contaminated by the opossum's feces. It is believed that armadillos, skunks, raccoons, sea otters, seals and domestic cats can also be intermediate hosts of the protozoa. End of Editor Note

About AAEP

The American Association of Equine Practitioners, headquartered in Lexington, Ky., was founded in 1954 as a non-profit organization dedicated to the health and welfare of the horse. Currently, AAEP reaches more than 5 million horse owners through its over 9,000 members worldwide and is actively involved in ethics issues, practice management, research and continuing education in the equine veterinary profession and horse industry.


Press release provided by Giulia Garcia - AAEP

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