Study: Not All Maple Species Contain Hypoglycin A

Hypoglycin A is the toxin behind the potentially deadly muscular disease atypical myopathy.

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Researchers at the Utrecht University Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and RIKILT Wageningen UR, both in the Netherlands, have studied equine mortality as a result of atypical myopathy, and they determined that not all maple species contain the toxin behind the potentially deadly disease.

Each year, hundreds of European horses die due to atypical myopathy, also known as pasture myopathy. In the past, horses with the condition were almost certain to die, but today the disease can be diagnosed and treated at a much earlier stage. Still, the mortality rate for the disease is still 70%, so prevention is extremely important.

This serious muscular disease can occur after horses eat the leaves, seeds, and/or buds of maple trees that contain the toxic substance hypoglycin A. The scientists studied hundreds of samples taken from a wide range of maple species to find out which species contained the toxin. They found that the sycamore maple contained the toxin, but the field maple (or hedge maple) and the Norway maple do not.

In their study, the researchers called on horse owners to send samples of the maple trees in their vicinity. They received 278 samples of the three most common types of maple trees in the Netherlands: the sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus), the field maple or hedge maple (Acer campestre), and the Norway maple (Acer platanoides). They measured the concentration of hypoglycin A in all of the seeds, leaves, and buds. The toxin was not identified in field or Norway maples, but every sample of the sycamore maple contained hypoglycin A

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