Cookie use on MRCVSonline
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive all cookies.
If you would like to forward this story on to a friend, simply fill in the form below and click send.

Your friend's email:
Your email:
Your name:
Send Cancel

Besnoitiosis reported in UK donkeys for the first time
Equine besnoitiosis leads to the development of tiny cysts on the surface of the eye.

Rare disease discovered in 20 donkeys from the Donkey Sanctuary.
A chronic and debilitating equine disease has been identified in donkeys in the UK for the first time.

Writing in the journal Parasites and Vectors, researchers report the discovery of equine besnoitiosis in 20 donkeys from the Donkey Sanctuary during the period 2013-2019.

Equine besnoitiosis a rare disease that occurs in horses, donkeys, mules and zebras. Donkeys with the condition develop multiple parasitic cysts on the skin, over the nostrils, ears and face.

A unique feature of besnoitiosis is the development of tiny cysts on the surface of the eye. Some infected animals remain otherwise healthy, while others become thin and debilitated. Until recently,
besnoitiosis was a rare condition in most countries, including in the US, Spain, Belgium, and Italy.

Equine besnoitiosis was first detected in the UK in 2013 when a donkey at the Donkey Sanctuary was presented with skin lumps presumed to be sarcoid tumours. Analysis of the affected skin tissue revealed the presence of cysts similar to those caused by the parasite Besnoitia bennetti, together with the finding of tissue changes associated with a sarcoid.

The discovery triggered a collaboration between clinicians at the Donkey Sanctuary and a veterinary parasitologist from the University of Nottingham. Since then more than 20 clinical cases have been identified and studied.

“Given the relative proximity to other European countries, where clinical besnoitiosis is apparent, our findings will inform British vets of the potential for this emerging disease so that they can better recognise the pattern of clinical signs during clinical examination, said Dr Rebekah Sullivan, co-author of the report and a vet at the Donkey Sanctuary.
Lead author Dr Hany Elsheikha of the University of Nottingham, said: “It is absolutely essential – particularly now – that vets in the UK learn more about besnoitiosis, so they can identify and protect donkeys potentially at risk.
“Knowledge obtained in this study should improve our response to this emerging parasitic disease in donkeys in the UK, especially with the few treatment options and the unknown routes of transmission.”

Become a member or log in to add this story to your CPD history

Defra extends applications to Zoo Animals Fund

News Story 1
 Defra has extended the deadline for applications for the 100 Million Zoo Animals Fund until 26 February 2021.

Launched in June 2020, the fund provides financial support for zoos and aquariums that have experienced a drop in income caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Grants of up to 730,000 are available, which can be used to pay for essential costs and maintenance, including veterinary care, medicines, animal feed and staffing.

More information about the fund and details of how to apply can be found here

Click here for more...
News Shorts
APHA confirms eighth case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in England

The Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) has identified an eighth case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N8 in poultry in England.

Confirmed on Tuesday (15 December), the outbreak was found in captive birds and poultry at a premises near Willington, South Derbyshire. A 3km Protection Zone and a 10km Surveillance Zone have been placed around the infected premises to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

Further information about the outbreaks and the latest government advice can be found at