A four-year trial suggests that Equine Grass Sickness (EGS) is associated with a bacterium commonly found in soil: Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum) type C. Currently, vaccines are available for botulism and tetanus, diseases that are closely related to C. botulinum type C.
Researchers are hopeful that a similar vaccine could protect against grass sickness. Scientists are unable to reproduce the disease in a laboratory setting, so to test the vaccine, they created a field trial to test vaccinated horses and those treated with a placebo. The trial used 1,000 horses and ponies in Scotland and England that were housed on premises where grass sickness has occurred in the past. The treatment included three doses of either the vaccine or a placebo given in 21-day intervals. A year later, an additional booster of the placebo or the vaccine as administered.
The scientists expected there to be a significant number of grass sickness cases. Unfortunately, there were only nine case of grass sickness during the trial period. No conclusions were drawn regarding the vaccine as a preventative measure for grass sickness. However, the vaccine was deemed safe and it did produce an immune response.
The study was coordinated by the Animal Health Trust, in collaboration with the veterinary schools of the Universities of Edinburgh, Liverpool and Surrey. Additional support was provided by the Moredun Foundation Equine Grass Sickness Fund.
Read more at Equine Science Update.
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