May 27, 2010; Kennett Square, PA – Contagious Equine Metritis, or CEM, is a venereal disease of horses that can cause abortion and infertility in mares. The United States was thought to be free of this disease, but in 2009 a number of cases of CEM were found in US stallions and mares. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is offering testing on breeding stallions at no charge. Locally, New Bolton Center has volunteered to participate in the program.
The program is part of the USDA’s plan to test 3000 stallions for the bacterium that causes CEM, Taylorella equigenitalis. Sampling targets are 101 stallions from Pennsylvania, 35 from New Jersey, 5 from Delaware and 32 from Maryland. Though stallions typically develop no signs of the illness, they can transmit the disease to mares, through breeding. Both stallions and mares can become chronic carriers of the bacterium and be the source of infection for future outbreaks. Such outbreaks have significant impact for both international breeders and exporters of horses.
Enrollment of eligible stallions will be voluntary, providing a great opportunity for horse owners to test their stallions at minimal cost. While the sample shipping and culture fees, a value of $250-$300, are paid by the USDA, the New Bolton Center fee for obtaining the required set of three specimens for culture is $50, plus a $32 admission charge.
“This is a great opportunity for a horse owner or breeder to gain some peace of mind about a stallion, and a valuable piece of information to pass on to owners of prospective mares that their stallion might be breeding to, all at a minimal cost,” says New Bolton Center’s Audrey Kelleman, DVM. “It’s also important for the prevention of a CEM outbreak in the United States, something that could be devastating to the horse industry.”
While the focus for the testing is on breeding stallions, those stallions known to be associated with the current CEM outbreak will not be included. Only those stallions actively breeding, having been collected or bred to a mare by live cover in 2008 or 2009, will be considered. In addition to the cost of the testing, APHIS will pay for treatment and retesting of any stallion found through this voluntary testing program to be positive.
“Several of the veterinarians in the section of reproduction at New Bolton Center will be participating with the program,” says Kelleman. “If you are having semen collected from a stallion for processing, the testing can be done at that time.”
For more information or to make an appointment, contact Dr. Audrey Kelleman at 610-925-6220.