Dourine: An Issue on the Rise?
Samantha Fanelli VB SC 402W, Sect. 001 February 13th, 2012
Introduction: As one of the largest contributors to the equine world, the breeding industry requires constant vigilance to maintain safety and efficiency. Diseases, especially those transmitted sexually, provide one of the largest and most disastrous vulnerabilities in the system. Venereal diseases severely limit the key process in the industry and pose a threat to the industry’s economy. Dourine, or covering disease, is one such venereal illness that challenges international breeders in countries where it has not been eradicated. Dourine is caused by a protozoan parasite called Trypanosoma equiperdum and results in a chronic and highly variable genitalia infection in equid species that can be severely debilitating or even fatal. With no long-term method of treatment or vaccine, gaining control of the disease relies entirely on prevention.1 Though eradicated in most countries, dourine still persists in Africa, Asia, and sporadically in the Middle East and Europe.2 The aim of this paper is to discuss the epidemiology of dourine and the degree to which global breeding and competition are inhibited by this disease. Materials and Methods: All of the informational material was gathered from various internet sources. A Google Scholar search followed by a standard Google search provided numerous horse-specific websites that offered copious amounts of information and current events, such as Equinews and HorseTalk. A PubMed search also yielded clinical studies on recent breakouts. Effective keywords included “dourine,” “Trypanosoma equiperdum,” “equine venereal disease news,” and “equestrian market problems.” A representative search outcome is shown in Appendix A. Epidemiology: Transmission
Dourine is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma equiperdum and is the only trypanosomal disease transmitted almost entirely through sexual contact or artificial insemination with fresh, infected semen. Stallions generally pass the parasite to mares through seminal fluid and contact with the sheath, however, mares can also transmit it to stallions through vaginal secretions during breeding. The parasite resides within several areas of the genital tract, making it difficult to find. Small quantities of trypanosomes can be found in edematous fluid of the external genitalia, the lymph, vaginal mucus, and plaque fluid.2 Infected horses can also go through noninfectious periods when the parasite randomly vacates the genital tract, lasting several weeks to months, otherwise it is highly transmissible.1 On rare occasions, dourine can be passed vertically from mares to their fetuses or nursing foals or through the conjunctiva and other mucous membranes. Horses, donkeys, and mules are the primary hosts for dourine, although rats, mice, rabbits, and dogs have been infected experimentally in the laboratory.2 Symptoms Dourine has various manifestations and infection severity depending on the virulence of the particular strain and host stress and nutritional status. The first signs seen in almost all cases are mucopurulent discharge from the reproductive tract and edema of the reproductive tissues that may spread to nearby areas such as the perineum and abdomen, resulting in depigmentation. These symptoms can last for several weeks or even years with varying periods of recovery and relapse.1 Pathognomonic edematous patches called “silver dollar plaques” can occur in more serious manifestations on the skin of the neck and hips and across the ribs lasting for three to seven days.2 Neurological symptoms also exist, including incoordination, fatigue, and paralysis with progressive loss of weight and body condition.1 Mortality rates are approximately 50-70%
in untreated cases. Overall, infected horses suffer severe losses in breeding ability and production value, and many do not survive.2 Prevalence and Prevention Dourine was once widespread across the globe but has been eradicated from most countries through preventative measures. With such varied symptoms and recovery/relapse stages, diagnostic evaluation is difficult to sufficiently and accurately determine if a horse is infected.1 Horses can instead be tested serologically to determine the presence of dourine, and those that are seropositive are quarantined and placed under breeding and movement restrictions. Euthanasia is not compulsory but is suggested and the usual choice for most breeders, as no reliable form of treatment exists. Introduction of horses into new herds should not be initiated until testing has been performed, and declaration of disease status is required by law for seropositive individuals in numerous countries. Many areas including the United States have been deemed eradicated of the disease, but the disease has hardly been vanquished.2 Areas such as Asia, Africa, Mexico, Russia, and even southern and eastern Europe have still not seen the complete eradication of dourine, and several new reports have surfaced in Italy as recently as the winter of 2011.1 In May of 2011, the first case since 1996 appeared in Campania, Sicily in a stallion undergoing routine stud testing who had bred with an infected mare from the Netherlands.3 Nine more horses were infected in Campania, and on December 1st, another case was reported in Bari, Italy with 49 susceptible horses.4 Even in highly developed countries with well established breeding programs, dourine still prevails with the introduction of just one compromised individual. Stricter adherence to dourine testing policies needs to be enforced to ensure the safety of all horses in the breeding industry.
Economic Impact As of 2005, the equine industry contributed $102 billion to the American economy, with over $30 billion from racing and showing alone.5 Racing and showing exemplify the two biggest calls for breeding in the industry, and their sheer size and lack of satiation for new horses is especially dangerous when it comes to venereal diseases. A desire for quick turnover times within small ovulation periods demands for rapid breeding and a lack of cautiousness. Without routine testing for dourine, regardless of how long it has been eradicated, herds will remain in danger of infection. Once infected, the few horses that are not euthanized immediately are forced into retirement from breeding and usually too fatigued and emaciated to work, leaving them useless and unable to contribute to the breeder’s earnings. With such a large portion of the industry relying on reproductive ability and work capacity, a disease that inhibits both of these functions is devastating to its financial impact. Introducing new horses into preexisting breeds or relying on artificial insemination from across the globe is now a serious cause for concern. As it stands, dourine is not a tremendous problem in most areas. These outcroppings of new isolated incidents, however, are fearsome and less likely to encourage international breeding and showing in areas that are becoming endemic. Major sources of financial income are international showing competitions and breeding agreements, and halting these practices because of a venereal disease would put a large dent in the industry’s income. Stricter breeding hygiene can prevent the contact spread between mares and stallions and should be carefully monitored.6 Implementation of more rigid rules for animal testing is essential to protecting the industry and potentially preventing the cessation of all global communications between horse breeders and competitors.
Conclusion While venereal diseases are more of a discomfort and inconvenience in many species, dourine is far more serious. The symptoms are often debilitating and even fatal, and infection requires quarantine and often euthanasia. Firm observance of preventative measures such as serological screening, herd separation, and even basic hygiene can prevent the potentially disastrous effects of this disease. The biggest threat posed by the disease is to the international breeding and showing industries who may begin to see declines in business due to fear of infection and reintroducing a once endemic disease into an eradicated area. With such a large impact of the equine industry on the world economy, extreme precautions need to be made when handling this disease. Eleven new cases have emerged within the last year in a country that was once considered highly for its dedication and excellence in horse breeding. Further spread must halt here to ensure the safety of the breeders’ bank accounts but, most importantly, the horses themselves. Works Cited: 1. Rickets S, McGladdery A. 2011. Focus article: Dourine – an emerging venereal threat to European horses. AHT / BEVA / DEFrA Equine Quarterly Disease Surveillance report 7:1-18. 2. 2009. Dourine. Iowa State University, http://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/Factsheets/pdfs/ dourine.pdf. Accessed February 4th, 2012. 3. Scacchia M, Camma C, Di Francesco G. 2011. A clinical case of dourine in an outbreak in Italy. Veterinaria Italiana 47:473-475. 4. 2011. Dourine case in southern Italy. HorseTalk, http://www.horsetalk.co.nz/news/ 2011/12/ 047.shtml. Accessed February 4th, 2012 5. National economic impact of the U.S. horse industry. American Horse Council, http:// www.horsecouncil.org/national-economic-impact-us-horse-industry. Accessed February 4th, 2012. 6. Samper JC, Tibary A. 2006. Disease transmission in horses. Theriogenology, 6:551-559.
Appendix A: Representative Search Results from PubMed