Nasal discharge is typically an early sign of strangles.
A new diagnostic blood test has been developed to combat the virulent horse disease known as "Strangles", caused by infection with the bacterium Streptococcus equi (S. equi). The breakthrough has come after four years of research by scientists at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket, England.
The blood test identifies horses that have recently been exposed to Strangles, enabling it to be nipped in the bud.
The blood test is ideal for screening horses prior to movement, competition or sales and will be available immediately.
The next big step is to produce a new effective vaccine, which would be a major breakthrough in protecting horses and ponies around the world.
The Horse Trust's Chief Executive Brigadier Paul Jepson said: "We are delighted our funding for this project has been so fruitful. This represents major progress in our battle to reduce the suffering caused by this common and debilitating disease."
The development of the test is part of the campaign ?Breaking the Strangles Hold', launched by the Animal Health Trust and British Horse Society in February last year by the AHT's President HRH The Princess Royal.
The campaign has two main aims: to raise awareness among owners, riders and anyone involved in the health and welfare of horses, and to generate funds to support the vital research in the ongoing battle to eradicate the disease.
Peter Webbon, Chief Executive of the Animal Health Trust, said: "Our research scientists have a particular interest in the diagnosis and prevention of Strangles and the development of this diagnostic test is a major milestone. Huge thanks go to all of those who have supported the campaign."
In the first half of 2007 the Animal Health Trust diagnostic laboratories analysed almost 8,000 samples from suspected strangles cases in the United Kingdom.
Strangles is the most commonly diagnosed infectious horse disease around the world. It can prove fatal. Clinical signs include fever, profuse nasal discharge and abscessed lymph nodes of the head and neck. The swelling of these lymph nodes may, in severe cases, restrict the airway, hence the name ?Strangles'.
In February 2007, the strangles vaccine in use in Europe failed tests, which showed that samples had dropped below EU approved levels. The vaccine was withdrawn from sale.