Archive for November 2013

Atypical myopathy update

Further to our previous posts on atypical myopathy we would like to draw everyone’s attention to the following links from The University of Liege. The group at Liege are leading research into atypical myopathy and need everyone’s help in identifying cases. The links below also contain a lot of general information for those interested in finding out more about the disease. Please help to distribute these links to your contacts:

The number of cases of atypical myopathy is increasing these days. Please forward the message below to your contacts through your Facebook account.

Invite your contacts to register to receive alert messages via the official Internet site run by researchers at the University of Liege:

If you are aware of a case, THANK YOU to declare the case:
- as an owner, via the link :

- as a vet, via the link :

If you are short on time, you can make a quick statement via the link (and complete your return later):

AUTUMN 2013 – At the date of the 5nd of November 2013, 82 clinical cases compatible with the diagnosis of atypical myopathy have been communicated to Liege University and to the RESPE. These cases were recorded in Belgium (46 cases), Germany (6 cases), Great-Britain (4 cases), The Netherlands (14 cases), and France (12 cases).

The seasonal climate conditions are those favourable to the emergence of cases of atypical myopathy. Today we know that the toxin responsible for the condition is present in the seeds of some Acer such as Acer pseudoplatanus (= maple tree; see ( Hence it is important to prevent horses from ingesting those seeds.
With temperature changes the seeds will begin to fall and the risk of poisoning get important. If feasible, access to pastures where Acer can be found, must be limited.

Breaking News… atypical myopathy update

We have seen and heard of several cases of atypical myopathy (AM) in this part of the country in the past few days.  AM is a highly fatal muscle disease in horses in the UK and Northern Europe. It results in destruction of respiratory, cardiac and postural muscles and affected horses show signs of weakness, muscle trembling, lethargy and pain and may become recumbent. Even with intensive veterinary treatment, severely affected horses may die.  Several horses from one location can be affected and outbreaks occur most commonly in the autumn.

A US study earlier this year linked a toxin called hypoglycin A inseeds of the box elder tree (Acer negundo) with Seasonal Pasture Myopathy (SPM), the US equivalent of AM. A new European study published last week has concluded that toxins from the seeds of the tree Acer pseudoplatanus(commonly known as the ‘sycamore’)are the likely cause of AM in Europe.  The seeds are commonly referred to as ‘helicopters’ .

This new European research from the University of Liege showed high concentrations of the toxin (hypoglycin A)in the serum of horses suffering from AM in Belgium and other European countries. The pastures of 12 of the horses were visited by experienced botanists and the Acer pseudoplatanus(the sycamore tree) was found to be present in every outbreak.

The concentration of hypoglycinA in sycamore seeds varies between seeds in the same pasture and even from the same tree.  It is likely that the most important factors contributing to horses being poisoned by hypoglycin A are the availability of the seed in the field combined with a lack of adequate grazing or supplementary forage.   

 This latest research helps us provide more specific advice to horse owners to reduce the risk of their horses contracting AM.  In practical terms, horses’ ingestion of sycamore seeds in the autumn could be reduced by:

-          Hoovering-up/picking up sycamore seeds

-          Fencing off areas where sycamore seeds have fallen from trees

-          Regularly inspecting fields  to ensure seeds have not blown in from sycamore trees nearby

-          Supplying extra forage (hay or haylage) especially where pasture is poor

-          Reducing stocking density so there is plenty of palatable grazing for every horse

-          Turning out horses for only short periods rather than extended periods of the day (ideally <6 hrs)