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Has anyone here had any experience with Pythium insidiosum?  

We've lost one pony to it and another now has it.  We're desperately trying to save him.

Can anyone offer any help?  

Thank you.  

Pythiosis is a relatively uncommon fungal-like infection causing cutaneous or subcutaneous, gastrointestinal, respiratory or multisystemic disease in many species of animals including humans.

Horses are most commonly infected, and the devastating tumor-like nodular skin masses seen in these cases are likely to be remembered long after the actual name of the organism—Pythium insidiosum—is forgotten. The extremely rapid rate of growth of these lesions and the generally fatal outcome in these cases makes remembering this disease crucial for equine practitioners since early recognition and appropriate treatment are the only hope for survival for infected horses.

Pythium insidiosum is referred to as an aquatic fungi or water mold, but, although it has some characteristics in common with typical molds, it is phylogenetically distinct. It was first identified in 1901 and has caused problems throughout North, Central and South America, the Caribbean Islands, Australia, the Pacific Islands and Asia. (It is interesting that tropical conditions support pythiosis, but to date no cases have been reported in Africa).

This Disease Is Spreading

Pythiosis has been called a number of names throughout the world, from swamp cancer, Florida horse leeches and summer sores to bursautee. This lack of scientific or descriptive terminology reflects the lack of knowledge about this disease.

Recently, however, new research and better diagnostic methodologies seem to indicate that pythiosis, and infection by another member of the same class of organisms—Lagenidium—might be responsible for an increasing number of infections in horses and other species. Bob Glass, an allergy specialist and owner of Pan American Veterinary Labs, has been investigating pythiosis for years.


  • Florida is responsible for 60 percent of recorded infections, and Texas accounts for another 25 percent. Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama contribute another 10 percent

  • Pathogenesis: At first appearing as a laceration, the wound area develops further looking like a snake bite or foreign body puncture with granulated tissue and necrosis

  • Aggregates of necrotic cells form in the lesion, producing yellow to grey, pea-sized, gritty, coral-like bodies called kunkers.

  • The lesion will continue to grow and eventually erode ligaments, tendons and bone and lead to death in 95 percent of cases within six months.

  • Photographs shown

Not A True Fungal Infection: Merck Manual

  • Oomycosis is caused by pathogens in the class Oomycetes. These organisms are not true fungi but are aquatic pathogens in the kingdom Stramenopila. They are more closely related to algae than fungi but cause disease that closely resembles zygomycosis (see Zygomycosis). Organisms of significance in veterinary medicine include various species of Saprolegnia and Achyla (eg, S diclina), which are the common agents of cutaneous disease in fishes; Pythium insidiosum, the cause of a cutaneous and subcutaneous mycosis in horses (bursatti, swamp cancer, leeches), a cutaneous, subcutaneous, and GI disease in dogs, and a cutaneous and paranasal disease of cats; and Lagenidium spp, the cause of cutaneous and systemic lesions and large-vessel aneurysms in dogs. Pythiosis is a common disease of domestic animals in some tropical and subtropical areas of the world. In dogs, pythiosis is most often encountered in southeast Asia, eastern coastal Australia, South America, and in the USA, especially along the Gulf coast. In the USA, the disease most often is seen in fall and winter months.



  • Complete surgical excision (debulking) is the treatment of choice, but the disease is often too extensive at the time of diagnosis to allow complete resection.

Vaccine Therapy

  • Pan American Veterinary Labs has developed an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) that is specific for the presence of pythiosis fungal elements and has greatly helped in the recognition of these cases. A simple blood sample is evaluated, and the disease can be confirmed. This testing can also recognize the presence of Lagenidium (three cases in horses have been confirmed so far).
  • An improved Pythium insidiosum-vaccine formulation with enhanced immunotherapeutic properties in horses and dogs with pythiosis.

Treating Pythiosis As A Cancer with Chemotherapy

  • Two main groups of Antimycotic drugs have been used to treat pythiosis: Iodine and amphotericin B. Both drugs, however, have given contradictory results. For instance, some practitioners reported that iodine can cure the disease after intravenous injections while others reported failures with the same procedures. In theory, amphotericin B should not work on P. insidiosum due the fact that this pathogen does not have ergosterol (target of the drug) in its cytoplasmic membrane. Nevertheless, the drug has been used with some success in equine pythiosis. The use of drugs in treating pythiosis has been limited because of cost, poor success rate, and high toxicity.

Dr Leo Mendoza

  • Dr. Leonel Mendoza has studied Pythium insidiosum since 1981 in Costa Rica, where he described the infection in horses and developed several serological tests to help in the diagnosis of Pythiosis in the clinical laboratory. During his early years of research, Dr. Mendoza discovered immunotherapeutic (Pythium vaccine) approach to treat pythiosis in equines. In 1996, Dr. Mendoza became faculty of the Biomedical Laboratory Diagnostics Program at Michigan State University. Since coming to Michigan State University, Dr. Mendoza has been instrumental in helping healthcare professionals in diagnosing and treating Pythium insidiosum. "Common mistakes in diagnosis of P. insidiosum occurs frequently because it mimics other infections, and most healthcare professionals will treat with antibiotics, which does not cure this disease", said Dr. Mendoza.



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Replies to This Discussion

What homeopathic remedies did you try? 

Have you tried Vitamin Therapy?

As with infections in people, finding the similimum is the answer. Since you live in Florida, I would contact Dr. Larry Bernstein ( He is an excellent homeopath and great at digging and delving for an answer. I will also post on our list serve. for chinese medicine approach, the Chi Institute is in florida.

one response: We have been developing with the cooperation of Dr. Leonel Mendoza (Michigan State University) and Robert Glass (Pan American Veterinary Laboratories) an improved immunotherapeutic for about 5 years against this disease in dogs (intestinal/systemic, cutaneous) and horses (cutaneous) and have had much success, although some failures as well depending on the duration of the disease.  Early diagnosis is critical.  Since the organism forms biofilms (“kunkers” in horses), immune killing becomes more difficult.  The product is not USDA-licensed as yet, but can be made available at no cost to clinicians in return for data and clinical impression.  Soluble proteins from multiple isolates are combined in a single 1 mL dose given IM to horses.  Chemicals are not used, nor are their preservatives in the product.  The concept is the down-regulating of Th2 (inflammatory, humoral) immune component and up-regulating Th1 (CMI) an immune recognition.

Richard D. Hansen, MA, DVM
Pythium Technologies, Inc.
(405) 387-3300

Thank you -- I am in contact with both Richard Hansen and Robert Glass. They are receiving updates.  Was wondering specifically about homeopathics.  :) 

Well, again, homeopathically I would be looking for the similimum, so would need all the details about history of horse, personality, modalities, etc. That is why I suggested Larry Bernstein - he is great at digging and delving for remedies. If you send me your email I will send you a copy rom the AVH conference of Tim Couzens talk on horse constitutions. (Don't feel comfortable sharing online without permission of AVH). 


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