• Christine Keate

RVC publish study into strangles diagnosis in the UK

A new study from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), analysing laboratory diagnoses of strangles across the UK, has been published in the Veterinary Record. It paves the way for an improved understanding of the spread and control of strangles to reduce the impact of this devastating disease.


A contagious upper respiratory tract infection, strangles is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi, which can affect horses, ponies and donkeys of any age, breed or sex with younger horses typically more severely affected. It is also one of the most prevalent infectious diseases amongst horses and ponies worldwide, carrying a very high welfare burden with up to 100% of horses in outbreaks becoming affected.


This landmark study, funded by The Horse Trust, brought together an international team from the RVC, the University of Melbourne, jDATA, Intervacc AB, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the British Horseracing Authority. Researchers analysed data from seven UK diagnostic laboratories between January 2015 and December 2019, finding that 1,617 laboratory diagnoses of strangles were recorded over the study period. However, when taking into account the number of potentially undiagnosed horses, the true number of equids affected by strangles is thought to be much higher.


Importantly, the findings of this study begin to quantify the occurrence of strangles within the UK and guide veterinary surgeons in their approach to disease diagnosis. This includes not ruling out a strangles diagnosis when a horse or pony presents with more general clinical signs of nasal discharge, with or without fever, in the absence of abscessation or swelling of the submandibular and retropharyngeal lymph nodes. More generally, the study suggested that the description of ‘classical’ and ‘atypical’ clinical signs should be revised.



Strangles Online Tracker Website

The study also provides a crucial resource for horse owners in the form of an online tool (www.jdata.co.za/ses) to identify if strangles outbreaks have occurred in their area, or a region they may be travelling to with their horses. This resource is actively updated meaning that if a region is currently experiencing higher numbers of strangles diagnoses, owners can stay informed and subsequently heighten their biosecurity and hygiene protocols. This will help to reduce the spread of strangles and ultimately the impact it can have on yards, owners and horses.


For more information on strangles check out the features in our Diseases and Conditions section

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