Kentucky to begin piroplasmosis testing of horses

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has told race tracks that beginning Jan. 1, all horses must test negative for the potentially fatal disease equine piroplasmosis to be allowed on a Kentucky racetrack.

Since October 2009, at least 550 horses nationwide have tested positive, including one horse in Kentucky, according to Rusty Ford, KDA equine programs manager.

Most of the cases have been in quarter horses in Texas, but “there is growing evidence the disease is present in the Thoroughbred racing population as well,” Ford said in a letter to tracks.

At least eight states already require proof of a negative test. Ford said the testing is likely to remain in place at least through the fall race meets.

Equine piroplasmosis usually is caused by a tick-borne protozoan, but it can spread through dirty needles and blood transfusions. Piroplasmosis can cause fever and anemia and can be fatal.