Grants awarded to study equine pigeon fever

A horse with Pigeon Fever. © University of Florida
A horse with Pigeon Fever. © University of Florida

Two grants have been awarded to study equine pigeon fever, also known as dryland distemper.

The disease is caused by the bacterial organism Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis. It is considered endemic in California and some other western US states.

Infection results in large abscesses typically in the pectoral region of horses, but in other sites as well. Internal abscesses, if they form, prove fatal in about 40 per cent of cases.

The organism that causes pigeon fever can live for months to years in the soil and it may infect the horse through a wound or broken skin.

Flies can transmit the organism from the environment to horses.

There is no commercial vaccine.

Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica has awarded two $US25,000 grants that will fund research into the disease.

The grants will go to Roberta Pollock, a biology professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and Allison Stewart, a professor of equine internal medicine at Auburn University in Alabama.


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