Piro-Like Syndrome Making Waves in France

Piro-like syndrome is characterized by fever of apparently unknown origin, lethargy, anorexia, anemia, and sometimes depression.

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As Normandy prepares for the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, French scientists are performing biosecurity research to prevent the spread of equine disease. In particular, they’re looking into a syndrome they’re calling “piro-like.”

Piro-like—a temporary name given to the syndrome, also sometimes called isolated fever syndrome—results from several different diseases, including piroplasmosis (hence the current term of choice). Detailed investigation of this syndrome, including its pathogens and presence throughout France, will lead to improved biosecurity and disease management at an international level, said Charlène Daix, MSc, epidemiology technician at the French Network for Epidemiosurveillance of Equine Diseases (RESPE) in Caen. Daix presented her group’s research at the 2014 French Equine Research Day held March 18 in Paris.

As a result of their research, the RESPE has now included piro-like syndrome in its database.

Daix said piro-like syndrome is characterized by fever of apparently unknown origin, lethargy, anorexia, anemia, and sometimes depression. It’s important to note, however, that the piro-like syndrome is not the disease itself, she said, but the consequence of various primary infections that lead to it. The main primary infections include:

  • Piroplasmosis, caused by Babesia caballi and Theileria equi;
  • Lyme disease, caused by Borrelia burgdorferi;
  • Ehrlichiosis, caused by Anaplasma phagocytophilum;  
  • Leptospirosis, caused by bacteria of the Leptospire genus; and
  • Equine infectious anemia, caused by the virus.

While each of these diseases has its own unique disease process, they can all lead to piro-like syndrome, Daix said. Piro-like syndrome's clinical signs are identical regardless of the pathogenic origin; however, treatment varies considerably depending on the initial disease.

“The lack of knowledge about the pathogens responsible for the piro-like syndrome makes it difficult for practitioners in the field to diagnose and treat the horses,” Daix said. “This is further complicated by the fact that there are different treatments according to the initial diseases, and these are not without undesirable side effects. That’s why we recommend laboratory analyses so that the pathogenic agents can be identified.”

By mapping outbreaks and accepting piro-like diagnoses from treating veterinarians, researchers can acquire a better understanding of the syndrome and its patterns, which can lead to heightened biosecurity, Daix said.

As of May 1, 2014, following a six-month test phase, the RESPE piro-like network is in full force, ready to accept declarations from practitioners, the RESPE website said.

“A syndrome is, by definition, a group of symptoms or clinical signs related to a given pathological state, and by grouping them together this can direct the diagnosis,” Daix told The Horse.

“Piro-like was described by a group of veterinarians because of diagnostic difficulties in the field," Daix continued. "In effect, when there’s a fever without really determinant clinical signs, it’s not always easy to give a diagnosis. Once the syndrome has been identified, the veterinarians can seek to precisely identify the disease responsible for it and treat it accordingly.”

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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