03/08/2007 12:00AM

Dramatic rise in bacterial equine disease

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Lexington Disease Diagnostic Center has noted a significant increase in cases of the bacterial disease equine leptospirosis in central Kentucky this spring, mostly in mares that have lost their foals as a result of the infection.

Through March 7, the diagnostic center has confirmed 40 cases of equine leptospirosis, up from two cases by the same point last year. Scientists at the facility theorize that the increase could be related to a higher amount of rainfall in the area, according to a release the center issued Wednesday. Central Kentucky received 14 inches more rainfall in 2006 than it did in 2005, a fact that could now be affecting the 2007 foaling season.

Researchers from the diagnostic center and the Gluck Equine Research Center are teaming up to conduct an epidemiological study of the cases.

There is no equine vaccine for leptospirosis, which can cause late-term abortions in broodmares as well as fever, loss of appetite, eye cloudiness and squinting, and jaundice. Adult horses with the disease can die of liver or kidney failure. Horses generally pick up the infection through contact with the blood, urine, or tissues of other infected animals or by eating hay or feed contaminated by infected urine.

Rain, said Dr. Craig Carter, an epidemiologist at the diagnostic center, provides a better environment for the bacteria.

"Historically, the disease has been associated with increased rainfall because the bacteria survives better in nature in wet conditions," Carter said.

The disease can be transmitted from infected animals to people. Carter said that horsemen who suspect that an animal has leptospirosis should take standard hygiene precautions such as washing their hands after contact with that animal. In handling an aborted fetus, Carter also recommended that horsemen wear gloves and avoid splattering any material or fluids from the fetus.

"If you have any doubts or questions, contact your veterinarian," he said.

Real Quiet looking good

Champion Real Quiet, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner of 1998, could be released from the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center as early as Friday, his syndicate manager said.

A 12-year-old Quiet American stallion, Real Quiet has been at the equine hospital since Feb. 19. He underwent treatment for abscesses in both hind feet.

"He's doing great," syndicate manager Mike Jester said Thursday. "I was up there Tuesday, and he's back to his old self. They've drained the abscesses, and he's looking good, and I think they're going to release him tomorrow."

Real Quiet stands at Dr. William Solomon's Pin Oak Lane in New Freedom, Pa., for a 2007 fee of $5,000.

Jackson, Sanan merge groups

Thoroughbred owners Jess Jackson and Satish Sanan have combined the groups each founded to promote bloodstock sale reforms, they announced Thursday.

Sanan's Alliance for Industry Reform, launched in 2004, will merge into Jackson's Horse Owners' Protective Association in a move that their founders hope will "more effectively further their common agendas for improving the integrity of the horse industry and transparency in equine transactions," according to the announcement. "The entities will continue to operate and work towards substantial and lasting improvements to the horse industry under HOPA's name."

Sanan founded the Alliance for Industry Reform as part of an effort to encourage the bloodstock industry to adopt a code of ethics. Under the auspices of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, the industry did develop a code, albeit one that does not specify penalties for any infractions.

Jackson founded Horse Owners' Protective Association in 2005.

More horses for Texas sale

The catalog for Fasig-Tipton's April 3 Texas 2-year-old sale lists 355 horses this year, up 13 percent from last season. Auction house officials credit the growth in Louisiana's breeding industry as well as new consignments from Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico for the larger catalog. The auction will take place on April 1 at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Tex., at 10 a.m. The under-tack show will be on April 1 at 10 a.m

* The Jockey Club's Online Fact Book is now available at www.jockeyclub.com. The book provides statistical information on the racing industry. The current edition covers 2006 highlights, including record auction prices, a 3.3 percent increase in purses nationwide, and a 1.5 percent gain in national Thoroughbred handle. The printed version will be published in May.