Equine Research Could Keep Humans From Getting Hoarse

A technique developed to investigate strangles helped scientists understand the bacteria behind human sore throats.
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Equine Research Could Keep Humans From Getting Hoarse
A new research technique developed to investigate the bacteria that causes strangles in horses (seen here in a petri dish) has helped scientists better understand the bacteria that causes sore throats in humans. | Photo: Courtesy Animal Health Trust
A new research technique developed to investigate strangles in horses has helped scientists in human medicine take a leap forward in understanding the bacteria that causes many of us to become hoarse ourselves.

Scientists at the Houston Methodist Research Institute, in Texas, in partnership with scientific and veterinary research charity the Animal Health Trust (AHT), based in Newmarket, U.K., have identified new genes linked to how Streptococcus pyogenes, the infection responsible for a sore throat, survives in human saliva. The technique they used to support this discovery was developed by the AHT to better understand Streptococcus equi, which causes strangles in horses.

With an estimated 600 outbreaks of strangles each year in the U.K. alone, the AHT has spent many years examining how the bug causes disease, to aid in effective vaccine development. To do this, AHT scientists constructed a new method for identifying the most important genes for the bug’s survival in different conditions. They shared this technique with their human medicine counterparts to enable them to analyse the human pathogen. This example of the transfer of knowledge between veterinary and human research under the umbrella of ‘One Medicine’ has huge potential to enhance scientific knowledge to the benefit of both animals and humans.

“We are delighted that a technique developed at the AHT to learn more about Streptococcus equi and strangles in horses has provided new results that could benefit people, too,” said Andrew Waller, BSc, PhD, head of bacteriology at the AHT. “We have learnt a huge amount about our bug through following the work being done on human diseases, and it is great to be able to give something back in return. This study highlights the similarities of animal and human pathogens. We hope that our technique will also prove useful for the study and prevention of other diseases, regardless of the animal they affect

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