One of those physicians--albeit, a veterinarian--is Brenda Bishop, V.M.D., who believes she has identified a form of the disease in horses in her practice, Sport Horse Associates in Carthage, North Carolina.
"It's interesting to me that fibromyalgia in horses presents many of the exact same symptoms described by human patients," Bishop
Associated with those symptoms are bacterial, viral, and fungal infections that may be either the cause of the disease or the result of it.
According to Bishop
, no matter what came first, the disease or the infections, eliminating those infections produces results.
"In horses, according to my theory, an underlying chronic, systemic, low-grade fungal infection is usually present," Bishop
"Symptoms in horses are subtle in the early stages, extreme later on, easily recognizable, and in most cases easily treated with lasting, good results," she
"Interestingly, most of the symptoms take years to develop, so a thorough history of the horse is vital.
It helps to work with a horse owner or trainer who has been involved with the horse for at least one year."
has developed a questionnaire to help owners identify horses that might be suffering from fibromyalgia.
pointed out that, while answering yes to one or two of the questions could indicate the horse has a different ailment, answers that reveal a cluster of symptoms would cause her
to suspect fibromyalgia.
believes these symptoms are caused directly by deconditioning of the horse's muscles by the fungal attack or are the horse's psychological response to the illness.
"To put it in plain English, I think they feel lousy," she
"If you have ever known a person with fibromyalgia, they are just miserable, not just unhappy.
They feel terrible."
A horse's body contains three types of muscle: striated or skeletal muscles, which attach to and move the skeleton; smooth muscles, which control the movement of lungs, intestines, and other organs; and heart muscles, which control cardiac function.
In horses with suspected fibromyalgia, Bishop
sees evidence of deconditioning of all three types of muscle.
If a systemic fungal infection exists in the horse's blood and tissues, one would expect that today's sophisticated pathology laboratories could pinpoint it, but Bishop
maintains this is a formidable and usually unsuccessful task.
"Pathologists will tell you that, when they receive a sample for fungal culturing, it is difficult, time-consuming, and a challenge to grow any fungus out of it," she
"It takes a minimum of three weeks and, at the end of three weeks, there is no way of knowing if what you grew was a primary pathogen or a secondary contaminant."
has based her
diagnosis and treatment on what she
calls the process of exclusion.
best results have been achieved with a two-week regimen of a single, daily dose of a fungicidal drug top-dressed on the horse's feed.
research does not follow typical scientific protocol, she
insisted that when accepted methodology fails, researchers must be innovative in their thinking.
"If you continue to think like you have always thought, you will continue to get the results you always got, and in this case that is nothing," she