The Latest on Strangles in Horses

It’s the most frequently diagnosed equine infectious disease in the world. Find out how researchers are working to develop better detection methods and vaccines for strangles.

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The Latest on Stranges in Horses
Classic signs of strangles include bilateral nasal discharge and enlarged lymph nodes. | Photo: The Horse Staff

Better tests, vaccines, and management methods might halt the spread of this disease

Strangles. The name calls to mind images of a relentless force compressing your horse’s throat so he can’t breathe. And that’s exactly what’s happening with this disease … at least in its advanced form. But the force isn’t something external—it comes from the inside: the horse’s own lymph glands. Infectious bacteria invade those glands, causing abscesses that swell until they burst into torrents of thick, yellow-green pus cascading from the nostrils or from beneath the jaw.

While rarely “strangling” a horse to the point of death, strangles can still be painful and debilitating, causing horses to miss weeks of work. What’s worse, it’s highly contagious, spreading quickly through barns and farms. And because the bacteria can survive away from the horse, outbreaks can be difficult to manage.

Fortunately, researchers are making progress understanding strangles. Better diagnostic tests, vaccines, biosecurity techniques, and management methods could lead to fewer outbreaks and their resulting health and financial ­consequences

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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