How Long-Distance Transport Could Impact Horse Virus Spread

Researchers know that transport can affect horses’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to developing disease. But recent study results suggest it could also make horses more likely to spread disease.
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long distance transport
In a recent study, horses trailered over a long distance developed subclinical signs of airway disease and showed signs of virus activation, such as increased shedding of EHV-2 and -5. | Photo: iStock
When you trailer your horse, do you consider his health status first? If you don’t, you might want to add this step to your pre-travel checklist.

Researchers know that transport—especially long-distance—can affect horses’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to developing disease. But recent study results suggest it could also make horses more likely to spread disease.

In a recent study, horses trailered over a long distance developed subclinical (inapparent) signs of airway disease and showed signs of virus activation, such as increased shedding of equine herpesviruses (EHV)-2 and -5, said Katharine Muscat, PhD, of the University of Sydney Faculty of Science, in Australia.

In their study, Muscat and colleagues collected blood samples and nasal swabs and carried out endoscopies and tracheal washes on 12 apparently healthy horses aged 3 to 8. Then, they had these horses transported in groups of six for an eight-hour journey with a 15-minute break halfway. Once the horses returned, they collected nasal swabs on arrival and again one and five days later and collected blood samples 12 to 24 hours after arrival and two weeks later. They performed follow-up tracheal washes and endoscopies five days after the horses

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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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