Rapid diagnostic tests for strangles disease in horses worldwide

Credit: Christine Mendoza/Unsplash

Strangles is a highly contagious upper respiratory tract infection caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi, which affects horses, donkeys and ponies worldwide, with more than 600 outbreaks in the UK alone each year. After initial infection, persistence can result in horses becoming long term carriers. Rapid identification of infected/carrier horses allows suitable quarantine and treatment measures to be implemented.

Research undertaken by Duncan Maskell at the University of Cambridge, in collaboration with researchers at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Animal Health Trust (AHT), led to the subsequent development by the AHT of two rapid diagnostic tests for strangles.

These tests are now available in eight countries (United Kingdom, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Republic of Ireland, France, Germany, Argentina, Australia) and have prevented outbreaks by identifying horses that have been exposed to S. equi, and which may be infectious, and quarantining them before they can transmit the infection to naïve animals.

In the UK, reported cases reduced from 1,262 in 2010 to 243 by September 2020, a reduction of 80%.

“We never had Strangles before… but some years ago it was introduced … The disease spread rapidly to many farms in the UAE, which was a disaster. The antibody Strangles ELISA helped us a lot to control the disease.”

– Testimonial from Scientific Director, Central Veterinary Research Laboratory, UAE