EPM (Equine Myeloencephalitis)
Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM) consists of one major protozoan called Sarcocystis neurona and has been found carried by some opossums. When a horse eats hay or hard feed that is contaminated with this, it gains entry into the horse’s blood through the intestinal tract.
In most horses, Sarcocystis neurona is killed by the horse’s immune system in the lymph nodes of the intestines. However, in some cases, the EPM disease is captured by white blood cells and passed into the central nervous system where it deteriorates the nerve cells.
Currently, Australian equine vets do not have an effective preventative treatment or vaccine for this destructive disease so the only method of controlling the bacteria is to keep feed as securely locked up as possible. It has also been discovered that stress is strongly related to EPM in horses so owners are trying hard to prevent stressful events for their horse’s in an attempt to protect them from infection.
Treatment however is possible and vets are urging horse owners to report the first clinical signs of the disease in order to start treatment and nip it in the bud.