Cardiac Arrhythmias and Piroplasmosis

Italian researchers have documented a rare case of cardiac arrhythmia in a horse with piroplasmosis. While it had been noted in other domestic animal species, equine cardiac dysfunction associated with piroplasmosis had not appeared in the veterinary literature. The case study appeared in the June 8 issue of the Veterinary Journal.

Equine piroplasmosis (otherwise known as equine babesiosis) is a tick-borne protozoal disease of equids. Clinical signs include fever, anemia (too few red blood cells in the bloodstream, resulting in insufficient oxygenation of the tissues), and jaundice. The disease can also be spread by contaminated needles and other equipment. Recovered horses become chronic carriers without clinical signs.

"Cardiac dysfunction is a rare complication of babesiosis in domestic animals," reported the researchers, who work in the veterinary clinical department at the University of Bologna. "The horse in this report showed clinical signs of anorexia, depression, fever, icterus (jaundice of the white part of the eye), and brown urine, and laboratory results indicated sub-acute piroplasmosis."

The piroplasmosis diagnosis was based on serology tests.

"Myocardial damage associated with cardiac arrhythmia may be a complication of equine babesiosis as already demonstrated in other species," the authors stated.

Alessia Diana, PhD, researcher on veterinary diagnostic imaging in the university's Veterinary Clinical Department, said, "This article describes for the first time the clinical features of cardiac involvement in a horse with piroplasmosis. In particular, ventricular cardiac arrhythmias and elevted serum concentration of biochemical markers of myocardial damage were found. The therapeutic protocol was the same for sub-acute piroplasmosis without use of specific anti-arrhythmic drugs."

Piroplasmosis is found in nearly every country in the world except the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Ireland, Japan, and Iceland. It is estimated that only 10% of the world's horse population is naïve (has not been exposed to or developed antibodies to the causative protozoa).

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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