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Horse owners have a significant new weapon against strangles — a diagnostic blood test that became available on 1 March. An effective vaccination for the disease is expected soon.

Jan Wade of the Animal Health Trust (AHT) which, with the British Horse Society (BHS) launched the Breaking the Strangles Hold campaign in February last year, said: “The test will identify the two specific antigens present in the blood of infected horses as little as two weeks after exposure to the disease.

“We also now have a vaccine and it has gone through all the safety testing. We just have to complete the efficacy testing which normally takes around six months. We are very excited.”

A strangles vaccine was lauched by Intervet in November 2004 but deemed not effective enough and withdrawn in January 2007. The AHT has not decided who will market the new vaccine.

The BHS campaign was launched to raise £250,000 to fund research into eradicating the highly infectious disease.

For four years AHT scientists have been analysing the genetic structure of streptococcus equi, the bacterium that causes strangles.

A negative test taken more than two weeks after potential exposure to the disease will indicate, with 95% confidence, that a horse is free from infection. A positive test could also indicate the horse has had strangles, but has fully recovered, or that it is a carrier of the disease, though showing no signs.

www.strangles.org