Article Text

Biomarkers of exposure to cyanogens in horses with grass sickness
  1. B. C. McGorum, BSc, PhD,BVMS, CertEM(IntMed),DipECEIM, MRCVS1 and
  2. R. A. Anderson, BSc, PhD,CChem, FRSC2
  1. 1 Department of Veterinary Clinical Studies, Easter Bush Veterinary Centre, Easter Bush, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9RG
  2. 2 Department of Forensic Medicine and Science, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ


To test the hypothesis that equine grass sickness may be associated with the ingestion of cyanogenic glycosides from white clover (Trifolium repens), the concentrations of whole blood cyanide, and plasma and urinary thiocyanate, the main metabolite of cyanide, were measured in 12 horses with acute grass sickness and 10 horses with subacute grass sickness, and in 43 control horses, of which 21 were co-grazing with cases of acute grass sickness, 12 grazed pastures where grass sickness had not been reported, and 10 were stabled horses. The healthy horses which grazed with cases of acute grass sickness had higher concentrations of blood cyanide, and plasma and urinary thiocyanate than the other control horses, consistent with an increased exposure to cyanogens. The horses with grass sickness had no evidence of a recent intake of cyanogens, but may have been exposed to increased levels of cyanogens before they became anorexic.

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