New Study Discovers VivaStem™ (Stem Cell Fluid) Aids In Full Recovery From EPM Residual Ataxia

By Marie Hoffman

I walked out to do chores one evening at our stable, On Eagles Wings Equine Center LLC, in Kirkland, Illinois, only to see my favored old gelding walking in circles.  He was unable to walk in a straight line. When I led him he walked sideways with his hip off to one side and he was very unstable.   The vet diagnosed EPM, equine protozoal myeloencephtalitis.

The vet ordered the best EPM drug on the market at the time and performed supportive treatment.  The crisis was averted - he walked a bit crooked but he could walk and was not spinning in circles.  A few weeks post treatment, he was walking in circles again.  Again the vet came out to give supportive treatment. We put him on a different drug; he stabilized again but stayed in the wobbly ataxia state till he passed away of old age. My horse never fully recovered from EPM.

I discovered this is a common story of those unfortunate horse owners who notice their horse is moving in an unusual way. The vet comes out and diagnoses EPM.  The vet prescribes the drugs to kill the protozoa that have invaded the cells of the central nervous system.  As the protozoa multiply they burst out of the cell and migrate to more cells leaving a lesion on the CNS (central nervous system.) Once there are enough lesions in the CNS, neurological symptoms begin to manifest.  Inflammation of the CNS and the consequent muscular problems are typical presentation of EPM.  This lack of coordination and strength is called “residual ataxia.”

Thousands of horses are affected with EPM in the United States each month.  Opossums are the most common host of the protozoa, passing them on to the horse through their feces.  If your horse lives where opossums live, or if you purchase hay from places where opossums live, it is likely your horse is exposed to EPM.

EPM is difficult to diagnose, as its neurological symptoms can mimic many other neurological conditions and diseases.

Blood tests that are often used are the ELISA SAG and Western blot tests, which are for antigen levels in blood.   Levels of antigen can be high with no neurological symptoms, or they can be low with significant neurological symptoms.  Therefore interpreting prognosis of the horse from the antigen levels is at best difficult. Though the antigen levels can give some information regarding the status of the protozoal infection, they say little about the residual ataxia, which remains following the EPM infection and drug treatment.

Conventional drug treatment is considered successful if the horse improves one grade level on a 5 level Mayhew scale grading system. This leaves many horses far from normal, often times relapsing with mild to severe neurological symptoms.  The drugs can stop the initial crisis and the horses become stable, then stall in their level of ataxia.  These horses are unable to return to past performance levels with many only able to be pasture pets.

 The company VivaStem™ “stem cell fluid” research team investigated the possibility of stem cell fluid to help horses recovered fully from residual ataxia of EPM.  VivaStem™ had already proven to be effective in studies on dogs with injured backs that were paralyzed in the rear half of their bodies.  These dogs have recovered to be able to walk and play, regaining control of their bodily functions.  VivaStem™ was also studied on horses’ shoulder sweeney, where the muscle atrophied from trauma causing nerve damage.  The horse made a full recovery.

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