Equine Piroplasmosis Guidelines Published by AAEP

Horses grazing together in a pasture.
Horses grazing together in a pasture. Lubos Chlubny

Newsdate: Wednesday, January 5, 2022 - 9:35 am
Location: LEXINGTON, Kentucky

Comprehensive guidelines to assist veterinarians with identification, control and prevention of Equine Piroplasmosis (EP), a blood-borne protozoal infection of equids with a mortality rate for infected horses of up to 50%, are now available on the AAEP’s website. 

Trio of syringes used to vaccinate horses.

Trio of syringes used to vaccinate horses

Re-use of needles, syringes, and IV sets, blood-contamination of multi-dose drug vials, and use of illegal blood products have been identified as common methods of blood-borne disease transmission.
© 2018 by Fabio Berti New window.

Equine piroplasmosis (EP) is a tick-borne or blood-borne protozoal disease of equids (horses, donkeys, mules and zebras). The etiologic agent is one of two protozoan parasites, Theileria equi or Babesia caballi. An organism related to T. equi was described in horses in 2018 and confirmed as a new species, Theileria haneyi.

While natural tick-borne transmission of EP in the U.S. is rare, cases have been recognized in recent years specifically involving iatrogenic transmission in Quarter Horse racehorses. Guidelines author Dr. Angela Pelzel-McCluskey, national epidemiologist for equine diseases at USDA APHIS Veterinary Services, said most of these racehorses had direct ties to unsanctioned racing and unhygienic practices by their owners and trainers.

“Re-use of needles, syringes, and IV sets, blood-contamination of multi-dose drug vials, use of illegal blood products from other countries, and direct blood doping between horses have been identified as common methods of blood-borne disease transmission in this population,” said Dr. Pelzel-McCluskey. 

“Equine practitioners should be aware of the risk for EP and other blood-borne diseases, such as EIA, in this high-risk population and provide educational outreach to clients on appropriate biosecurity to prevent disease transmission between horses.” 

It is recommended that current Quarter Horse racehorses be routinely tested for EP and EIA during their racing career. Equine practitioners encountering former Quarter Horse racehorses as part of a pre-purchase or routine exam should discuss with owners the risk of previous disease exposure and recommend testing.

EP is considered a foreign animal disease in the U.S. Any detection must be reported to the state veterinarian and/or to USDA APHIS Veterinary Services. Horses infected with EP can be enrolled in a USDA APHIS-approved EP treatment program, which is often successful at permanently eliminating the infection.

The EP Guidelines were reviewed and approved by the AAEP’s Infectious Disease Committee and board of directors. View the guidelines or save them to your mobile device for future reference at https://aaep.org/document/aaep-infectious-disease-guidelines-equine-piroplasmosis.

Besides Equine Piroplasmosis, AAEP guidelines for four additional foreign animal diseases are available at https://aaep.org/infectious-disease-control/foreign-animal-disease-guidelines. In addition, 22 equine infectious disease guidelines can be found at https://aaep.org/guidelines/infectious-disease-control/using-guidelines

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 by Keith Kleine - Director of Industry Relations

About the Author

Press Release

Author picture

This news article is a press release received by the organization or person noted above. Press releases from recognized horse health companies and individuals are frequently posted on EquiMed as a service to our visitors. Please contact the author of the press release directly for additional information.