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Equine piroplasmosis status in the UK: an assessment of laboratory diagnostic submissions and techniques
  1. Robert M Coultous1,
  2. Paul Phipps2,
  3. Charlie Dalley2,
  4. Jane Lewis2,
  5. Toni-Ann Hammond3,
  6. Brian R Shiels4,
  7. William Weir1 and
  8. David G M Sutton1
  1. 1School of Veterinary Medicine, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2Animal and Plant Health Agency, Addlestone, Surrey, UK
  3. 3Diagnostic Laboratory Services, Animal Health Trust, Newmarket, Suffolk, UK
  4. 4Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  1. E-mail for correspondence; r.coultous.1{at}


Equine piroplasmosis (EP) has historically been of minor concern to UK equine practitioners, primarily due to a lack of competent tick vectors. However, increased detection of EP tick vector species in the UK has been reported recently. EP screening is not currently required for equine importation, and when combined with recent relaxations in movement regulations, there is an increased risk regarding disease incursion and establishment into the UK. This study evaluated the prevalence of EP by both serology and PCR among 1242 UK equine samples submitted for EP screening between February and December 2016 to the Animal and Plant Health Agency and the Animal Health Trust. Where information was available, 81.5 per cent of submissions were for the purpose of UK export testing, and less than 0.1 per cent for UK importation. Serological prevalence of EP was 8.0 per cent, and parasite DNA was found in 0.8 per cent of samples. A subsequent analysis of PCR sensitivity in archived clinical samples indicated that the proportion of PCR-positive animals is likely to be considerably higher. The authors conclude that the current threat imposed by UK carrier horses is not adequately monitored and further measures are required to improve national biosecurity and prevent endemic disease.

  • parasitology
  • piroplasmosis
  • theileria equi
  • babesia caballi
  • UK
  • horses
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  • Funding The Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) funded the cost of nested PCR screening, and RMC is supported by an HBLB research scholarship (VET/RS/254).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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