Validation of a new experimental model for assessing drug efficacy against infection with Trypanosoma equiperdum in horses

Laurent Hébert, Edouard Guitton, Anthony Madeline, Tristan Géraud, David Carnicer, Latifa Lakhdar, Pierre-Hugues Pitel, Margaux Coste, Eve Laloy, Aude Giraudet, Stéphan Zientara, Philippe Büscher, Claire Laugier, Aymeric Hans, Sandrine Petry, Julien Cauchard

    Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


    Trypanosoma equiperdum, the causative agent of dourine, may affect the central nervous system, leading to neurological signs in infected horses. This location protects the parasite from most (if not all) existing chemotherapies. In this context, the OIE terrestrial code considers dourine as a non-treatable disease and imposes a stamping-out policy for affected animals before a country may achieve its dourine-free status. The use of practices as drastic as euthanasia remains controversial, but the lack of a suitable tool for studying a treatment's efficacy against dourine hampers the development of an alternative strategy for dourine infection management. The present study reports on the development of an experimental infection model for assessing drug efficacy against the nervous form of dourine. The model combines the infection of horses by Trypanosoma equiperdum and the search for trypanosomes in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) through an ultrasound-guided cervical sampling protocol. After a development phase involving four horses, we established an infection model that consists of inoculating 5 × 104T. equiperdum OVI parasites intravenously into adult Welsh mares (Equus caballus). To evaluate its efficacy, eight horses were infected according to this model. In all these animals, parasites were observed in the blood at 2 days post-inoculation (p.i.) and in CSF (12.5 ± 1.6 days p.i.) and seroconversion was detected (8.25 ± 0.5 days p.i.). All eight animals also developed fever (rectal temperature > 39 °C), low hematocrit (< 27%), and ventral edema (7.9 ± 2.0 days p.i.), together with other inconstant clinical signs such as edema of the vulva (six out of eight horses) or cutaneous plaques (three out of eight horses). This model provides a robust infection protocol that induces an acute trypanosome infection and that allows parasites to be detected in the CSF of infected horses within a period of time compatible with animal experimentation constraints. We conclude that this model constitutes a suitable tool for analyzing the efficacy of anti-Trypanosoma drugs and vaccines.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalVeterinary Parasitology
    Pages (from-to)27-33
    Number of pages7
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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