Australian University Investigating Mystery Illness Affecting Equines

by | 11.23.2015 | 1:28pm

The University of Adelaide has researchers investigating the potential causes of an unknown illness that affected 14 horses in different regions of South Australia last year, killing eight of them.

The affected horses suddenly became very ill, and began sweating, having muscle trembling, breathing rapidly and exhibiting general weakness; some also had a loss of coordination. Some of the affected horses died rapidly, while others fully recovered.

Researchers are searching for common factors and are trying to establish a protocol that can be used to examine future cases. A suspected cause of the mysterious disease is weed marshmallow, also known as Malva parviflora or small-flowered mallow.

This weed invades pastures that have been damaged by drought or heavy grazing of livestock. Though the plant is typically unpalatable, if no other edible options are available, horses may eat the plant, especially after a heavy rain as the plant tends to grow rapidly.

Researchers have collected information on the 14 cases, including diet and clinical signs, from the owners of the horses. They hope to establish a protocol that includes the registration of clinical signs, blood and urine testing, and a post-mortem for the investigation of such cases


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