Study shows danger of mycotoxins for horses

horse portrait2_blogIt is well known that contaminated feed can cause serious problems for horses, ranging from colic and cardiac problems to neurologic issues and death. Mycotoxins can be a main component of these health problems which was recently documented a case in which feed contaminated with trichothecene mycotoxins caused bone marrow cell proliferation suppression, severe bleeding, and hair loss in horses after consumption.

Ohio State University veterinarian Rachel Liepman said she was presented an 11-year-old mare at her clinic with lethargy, acute perineal edema (fluid swelling in the perineal area, beneath the tail), hematochezia (bloody stools), fever, patchy alopecia (hair loss), and petechiation (small purple spots on mucous membranes).

According to a recent article, the mare’s bloodwork showed severe panleukopenia (a decreased white blood cell count), thrombocytopenia (decreased numbers of circulating blood platelets), and a prolonged prothrombin time (how long it takes blood to clot). Additionally, when veterinarians evaluated her bone marrow, they found profound myeloid hypoplasia (decreased white blood cell production) and megakaryocytic hypoplasia (decreased production of megakaryocytes, which produce platelets).

In collecting the mare’s history, Liepman said that her and the other veterinarians involved learned that she, along with other horses, had recently received a new batch of hay. This initially caused feed aversion and later some drooling, the article states. Then, the team learned that the hay had been improperly cured during production.

The mare exhibited several other problems and the team of veterinarians treated her aggressively with anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and blood transfusions. After eight days, however, her condition deteriorated and she was euthanized.

Subsequently, veterinarians ran blood tests on the other horses at the mare’s home facility that had shared the contaminated hay source. Liepman said one older horse exhibited milder symptoms but had similar bloodwork.

From there, Liepman had testing done on the hay which was found to have high levels of mycotoxins including 1,627 parts per billion (ppb) of the T-2 toxin and 1.1 parts per million (ppm) of vomitoxin. Both substances are in the trichothecene mycotoxin group, the article states.

Trichothecenes have radiomimetic properties and generally target bone marrow cell precursors, with T-2 being the most toxic—actually, one of the most potent toxins known,” Liepman explained in the article. “The myelosuppression in these cases was consistent with trichothecene intoxication, which is poorly documented both in horses and from a forage source. Reports typically mention these toxins in association with cereal grains. Most toxicologists didn’t believe me when I said this was a forage contamination—that how rare it is,” she added.

So how can owners protect their horses from ingesting trichothecene from forage? The main way is to ensure the hay you choose is produced properly and if in doubt, have it tested for mycotoxins.

For more information, click here.

Neogen offers the most comprehensive range of mycotoxin test kits to detect aflatoxin, aflatoxin M1, deoxynivalenol (DON), fumonisin, ochratoxin, T-2/HT-2, and zearalenone. Neogen offers test kits to compare samples against known levels of toxin, providing results in minutes and require only a minimal amount of training and equipment. For more information, click here.

 

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