Tel. +49 30 838 51833 Fax. +49 30 838 451847
Equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM) is a severe manifestation of equine herpesvirus 1 (EHV-1) infection. Prevention and treatment of EHM during EHV-1 outbreaks is critical, but no reliable and tested specific medication is available. Due to the thromboischemic nature of EHM and due to the fact that EHV-1 entry in cells is blocked by heparin, it was hypothesized that this compound may be useful in reduction of EHM incidence and severity. Therefore, during an acute EHV-1 outbreak with the neuropathogenic G2254/D752 Pol variant, metaphylactic treatment with heparin to prevent EHM was initiated. Clinical signs were present in 61 horses (fever n = 55; EHM n = 8; abortion n = 6). Heparin (25000 IU subcutaneously twice daily for 3 days) was given to 31 febrile horses from day 10 of the outbreak, while the first 30 horses exhibiting fever remained untreated. Treatment outcome was analyzed retrospectively. Heparin-treated horses showed a lower EHM incidence (1/31; 3.2%) than untreated horses (7/30; 23.3%; p = 0.03). Results indicate that heparin may be useful for prevention of EHM during an EHV-1 outbreak. These promising data highlight the need for randomized and possibly blinded studies for the use of heparin in EHV-1 outbreaks.