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                Glanders is a bacterial respiratory disease that was very contagious and difficult to identify. Although the total number of cases in Britain was limited, Blenkinsop and Rainey outline a number of other Fronts such as Persia and South Africa wherein thousands of animals were destroyed as a result. Therefore, Glanders became a lingering threat because animals were widely distributed throughout the war. The British Expeditionary Forces tested horses before being shipped to England, upon their arrival in England, as they are issued to a specific unit and once again as the horse was shipped abroad to support the war effort.


                As the mallein test became more necessary, a syringe quickly became a critical component of every officer’s wallet. Lisa Cox outlines that numerous syringes in the CAV Barker Museum were used as doping testing agents and vaccines, vials of testing agents, and vaccines such as tuberculin and mallien.”[i] Tuberculin was used to test cattle for bovine tuberculosis. Bovine tuberculosis is a very contagious bacterial disease that resulted in fluctuating fevers and lesions, similarly to Glanders.


                Mallein was used to test for Glanders. Blenkinsop and Rainey argued that the “control of Glanders” was one of the main achievement of the CAVC throughout World War One. The mallein test was critical to testing for Glanders, a bacterial respiratory disease that was often difficult to diagnose. Blenkinsop and Rainey argue that the Veterinary Corps switched to a “mallein eye-disc test from a complement fixation method” (for supplementary information please follow this link to an open access discussion of these methods).[ii] This change allowed those that were not trained bacteriologists to test horses. The British Expeditionary forces eventually allocated one captain, one civilian laboratory attendant and two female packers to produce mallien from a laboratory at Aldershot, a British Veterinary Hospital. This group was able to produce 50,000 doses of mallein a month “at a cost of less then two pence a dose.”[iii] This desire for increased efficiency proved vital to the CAVC’s success in the First World War. It increased the reliability of the only test for Glanders and increased the corps ability to identify, isolate and destroy any infected animals.


                An outbreak of Glanders occurred in December 1914. At the onset of this outbreak, two horses with nasal discharge were diagnosed by a veterinarian and later confirmed using the mallein test. Four more horses that were in immediate contact with the infected horses were also tested and subsequently destroyed. Following these results, the rest of the brigade was given the mallein test. On this occasion, 79 horses tested positive and were destroyed. However, following the testing of the whole brigade, the integrity of the mallein was called into question. Therefore, the unit was designated to isolated work efforts while a more reliable supply was dispatched.[iv] Unreliable testing and flu like symptoms made this disease a great concern for veterinarians because it was difficult to identify and required immediate quarantine to ensure the integrity of other horse’s health.








[i] Lisa Cox, “Finding Animals in History: Veterinary Artifacts and the use of Material History” as found in Susan Nance’s The Historical Animal, 111.


[ii] Sir L.J. Blenkinsop & J.W. Rainey, History of the Great War Based on Official Documents: Veterinary Services, 497.


[iii] Sir L.J. Blenkinsop & J.W. Rainey, History of the Great War Based on Official Documents: Veterinary Services, 521.


[iv] Sir L.J. Blenkinsop & J.W. Rainey, History of the Great War Based on Official Documents: Veterinary Services, 132.

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