Mistletoe May Cure Equine Sarcoids

Mistletoe might be better known as a novelty at Christmas, but Swiss researchers have found that it is effective in the treatment of sarcoids in horses.

Equine sarcoids are common skin tumors in horses which are usually benign. Sarcoids normally occur under the back legs along the ventral midline to the chest and head, and take various forms from ulcerated weeping lesions to slightly crusting dark patches. Very rarely do sarcoids represent a serious health problem, but they are at the very least unsightly and can cause some discomfort in horses. Current treatment of sarcoids is varied, and includes surgical removal, radiation treatment and treatment with liquid nitrogen.

A new study, titled "Treatment of clinically diagnosed equine sarcoid with a mistletoe extract (Viscum album austriacus)" and published in the December issue of the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, has demonstrated that sacroids can be effectively treated with Mistletoe extract. The research, led by Vincent Gerber of the University of Bern, tested the effect of mistletoe extract, Viscum album (VAE), on 43 horses with sarcoids using either the extract or a saline placebo. In the study, researchers applied 1 millileter of VAE in increasing concentrations or a saline placebo subcutaneously three times a week for 15 weeks. In total, they observed 163 tumors for a year.

The sarcoids partially or completely regressed in 41% of horses treated with VAE, compared to just 14% in the horses that received the saline solution. Out of the 163 tumors treated, 67% of them showed complete or partial regression after treatment with VAE. Only 40% of sarcoid tumors in the control group regressed. The researchers noted that no significant side effects were observed, however they noted that injection of VAE three times a week for several months may represent a challenge to horse owners or vets.

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