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Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome

Interview with Dr. David Powell, equine epidemiologist, UK Gluck Equine Research Center, May 8, 2001

1. When was the problem with late term abortions and early fetal loss in horses first reported?

We first became aware of the problem around the middle of last week on May 2, 2001 when my colleague Dr. Roberta Dwyer and I visited farms that were experiencing these problems.
2. What do we know at this point about possible causes?
At this stage we do not have a definite diagnosis as to what is causing either of these problems but we are undertaking a very thorough investigation.
3. What have we ruled out as the cause?
We are looking at possible infectious causes and other possible causes involving pasture. At this stage we have ruled out a number of viral causes, and others will hopefully be eliminated over the next few days.
4. What are initial steps being taken to diagnose and control the problem?
At the end of last week we set up various groups of individuals both within the university and outside the university to investigate specific aspects of this problem. They have been out in the field taking samples which have been sent to various laboratories - both the UK Diagnostic Lab and other laboratories in Kentucky and other parts of the United States - to identify whatever might be causing this problem. There's an extensive team of individuals investigating this problem at the present time.
5. Will affected mares be able to produce foals in the future?
Based on past experience of this kind of problem, at this stage we would feel reasonably confident that mares that are bred back would get in foal, but it's still early days to make too dogmatic a statement.
6. What are the potential economic impacts?
We don't know the true incidence of this condition but we will have precise figures before the end of this week. It is therefore unclear at present as to what the economic losses are going to be. I think at this stage we appreciate the losses are going to be serious if we think in terms of lost stud fees based on the mares that have lost their foals or fetuses.
7. What should veterinarians and horse owners be doing?
Unfortunately at this time we cannot give precise advise until we have a definitive diagnosis. We are suggesting to farm owners not to graze their mares on really lush pastures, and to mow those pastures. Hopefully we will be able to provide them with much more specific information based on what is causing this problem.
--Gluck Equine Research Center, Veterinary Science Department, College of Agriculture, University of Kentucky .

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