Outbreak of equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy in France: a clinical and molecular investigation.
Equid herpesvirus 1 (EHV-1)-associated myeloencephalopathy (EHM) is a disease affecting the central nervous system of horses. Despite the constantly increasing interest about this syndrome, epidemiological data are limited especially when related to the description of large outbreaks. The aim of this article is to describe clinical, virological and molecular data obtained throughout a severe outbreak of EHM, with emphasis on laboratory diagnostic methods. The epidemic disease concerned a riding school in France where 7/66 horses aged 12-22 years developed signs of neurological disease in July 2009. Diagnosis of EHM was supported by EHV-1 detection using both real-time PCR and virus culture, and SNP-PCR test for viral strain characterization. EHM morbidity was 10.6% (7/66), mortality was 7.5% (5/66) and case fatality rate was 71.4% (5/7). Clinical presentation of the disease was characterized by the fact that fever was systematically present within 2 days before the severe neurological signs were noted. EHV-1 was detected by PCR in each available blood and nasal swab samples. Neuropathogenic strain only (G2254) was isolated during the current outbreak; Ct values, used as an indicative level of the viral load, ranged 26.0-37.0 among the six sampled horses. The amount of virus in biological samples was not systematically related to the intensity of the clinical signs being observed. In conclusion, this article described a severe outbreak of EHM while limited in time and restricted to one premise. Molecular data strongly suggested taking into account any low viral load as being a potential risk factor for neurological manifestations.