Equine Grass Sickness Vaccine Pilot Study Announced

Equine Grass Sickness Vaccine Pilot Study Announced

The chronic form of equine grass sickness causes sudden extreme weight loss leading to a "wasp waist" appearance.

Photo: Chris J. Proudman, MA, VetMB, PhD, Cert EO, FRCVS

According to information contained on The Equine Grass Sickness Fund's website, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate has approved a pilot trial of a grass sickness vaccine. The study, being conducted in conjunction with The Animal Health Trust and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, will include 100 horses and ponies enrolled by their owners.

"This pilot study is in preparation for a full vaccine trial, which is likely to commence in 2013 or 2014 subject to securing sufficient funding, which will involve at least 1,000 horses and ponies," a statement on the website read. "We have great hopes that these vaccine trials will mark an enormous breakthrough in the prevention of this devastating disease."

Also on the website, Jo Ireland, BVMS , PhD, Cert AVP (Equine Internal Medicine), MRCVS, of the Animal Health Trust, who is piloting the vaccine trial, said, "This is very exciting news and we are working flat out to get the study up and running. There is still a lot of work to do before launching the full nationwide vaccine trial, and this initial study will help us to ensure that the trial design will be practical to perform on a larger scale."

Study leaders are already seeking participants for the full vaccine trial. Interested parties are asked to e-mail info@grasssickness.org.uk for more information and to receive an owner's pack when the official case selection begins.

Equine grass sickness (EGS) is an often fatal neurologic disease affecting primarily young grazing horses. Since its first reported occurrence in Scotland, grass sickness has occurred in most northern European countries and in South America. Horses with more severe forms of the disease experience colic, difficulty swallowing, reflux of stomach contents, excessive salivation, high heart rate, impacted intestines, muscle tremors, and patchy sweating. Horses with the less severe form experience sudden and extreme weight loss, drying of the nasal membranes, and difficulty in swallowing. Only mild cases that receive intensive care survive.

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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