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Protecting Horses from Equine Herpesvirus-1, EHMBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · March 27, 2017

Instead of developing an upper respiratory tract infection when exposed to equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1), some horses suffer abortions or a neurological condition called equine herpesvirus-associated myeloencephalopathy (EHM). Due to the devastating consequences associated with EHM, researchers* are focusing on how exactly the virus harms the central nervous system.

“One of the prevailing theories at the moment involves the virus disturbing the blood supply to the delicate tissues of the central nervous system,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

To be more precise, EHV-1 infects a specific organism called a peripheral blood mononuclear cell, or PBMC, that circulates in the bloodstream. Infected PBMCs ultimately circulate within the small vessels of the central nervous system, especially those located in the spinal cord. Coming into close contact with the cells lining the blood vessels and central nervous system allows the virus to compromise the blood supply in that area. As a result, circulation to that region of the central nervous system decreases, causing damage to the sensitive tissues due to lack of blood flow.

According to various research groups, anti-inflammatory drugs could stop EHV-1 from negatively affecting the cells lining the blood vessels within the central nervous system. One group* recently tested various anti-inflammatory drugs in a laboratory setting and confirmed that they were able to decrease infection of those cells, protecting horses against EHV-1.

Tested medications included acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin), lidocaine, firocoxib, flunixin meglumine, and dexamethasone. Each medication decreased the ability of EHV-1 to infect cells associated with the blood supply of the central nervous system.

“This research was performed in a laboratory setting, and still needs to be tested further in live animals before veterinary recommendations can be made. In the meantime, other anti-inflammatory agents such as omega-3 fatty acids may also help protect horses against viral infections, especially EHV-1 that can cause EHM,” suggested Crandell.

EO•3 has natural anti-inflammatory properties and is used to help support respiratory, reproductive, and musculoskeletal health. EO•3 supplies both EPA and DHA in a palatable oil that is top-dressed onto the feed.

*Goehring, L.S., K. Brandes, L.V. Ashton, et al. Anti-inflammatory drugs decrease infection of brain endothelial cells with EHV-1 in vitro. Equine Veterinary Journal. In press.