Italy Responds to Equine Dourine Outbreak

In May 2011, a stallion undergoing routine testing in Italy for stud purposes tested positive for dourine.
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Dourine is a sexually transmitted parasitic disease of equidae, caused by the flagellate protozoan Trypanosoma equiperdum. Recent phylogenetic (the evolutionary relation among groups of organisms) investigations suggest that T. equiperdum and Trypanosoma evansi, the agent of surra, are subspecies of Trypanosoma brucei, transmitted by tsetse flies and widespread throughout Africa. Dourine is endemic in many areas of Asia, Africa, Russia, parts of the Middle East, South America, and southeastern Europe. In Italy, it was originally eradicated in the 1940s, but in the 1970s a serious epidemic occurred.

Dourine is the only trypanosomiasis transmitted solely by the venereal route. The pathogenicity of different T. equiperdum strains is variable.

The diagnosis of dourine can be difficult, as clinical signs and lesions may be absent. Direct diagnosis can also be problematic, given the low number of parasites normally present in infected tissues and the mild, short-lasting parasitemia (parasites in the blood). Additionally, there is serological cross-reactivity with other trypanosomes.

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