Strangles is a bacterial disease that affects the upper respiratory tract and the lymph nodes in the head and neck. Common signs are fever, nasal discharge, and the formation of abscesses in the lymph nodes. These abscesses, which occur most often in the throatlatch or jaw areas, eventually burst and drain thick pus. Though the horse can appear quite ill, strangles is usually not fatal. However, strangles sometime moves into other areas of the horse’s body where it is generally much more serious and can cause death. The disease is highly contagious and is easily spread to other horses that come in contact with pus or nasal discharge.
A rapid diagnostic test for strangles has been perfected by a team of researchers from the University of Maine, Tufts University, and the University of Kentucky. Unlike previous tests that took several days to confirm a diagnosis of strangles, the new test produces results in a few hours. The test detects a specific protein on the bacterium Streptococcus equi subsp. equi, the cause of strangles. The kit has a marker that changes color when exposed to the strangles protein, making a positive diagnosis easy and fast. The timing is important in preventing the spread of the disease, as infected horses can be isolated before they contact other equines.