Equis ISSN 2398-2977

Equine coronavirus infection

Synonym(s): ECoV infection

Contributor(s): Nicola Pusterla, Rachael Conwell


  • Cause: Equine coronavirus (ECoV) is known to cause enteritis in foals and has recently been associated with fever, lethargy, anorexia, diarrhea and colic in adult horses.
  • Signs: generally unspecific and include lethargy, partial to complete anorexia and elevated rectal temperature (≥ 38.5°C).
  • Diagnosis: laboratory detection of ECoV via quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) in feces or ingesta content is necessary to confirm an ECoV infection.
  • Treatment: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), enteral or parental fluid therapy, antimicrobials.
  • Prognosis: good.



  • ECoV Coronavirus is a single-stranded, positive-sense, non-segmented, enveloped RNA virus which belongs to the Betacoronavirus genus.
  • ECoV shares the Betacoronavirus genus with bovine coronavirus (BCoV), canine respiratory and enteric coronavirus, porcine hemagglutinating encephalomyelitis virus, mouse hepatitis virus, sialodacryoadenitis virus and the human OC43 and HKU1 coronaviruses.

Predisposing factors


  • ECoV infected horses having contact to susceptible horses.


  • There is no breed or sex predisposition for ECoV infection. However, adulthood ECoV infection is predominantly seen in riding, racing and show horses and less frequently in breeding animals.


  • ECoV has an affinity to crypt epithelial cells and causes variable villus attenuation.
  • Severe necrotizing enteritis with marked villus atrophy has been reported from horses succumbing from ECoV infection.


  • The incubation period following natural or experimental infection with ECoV ranges from 48-72 h.
  • If untreated, the clinical signs generally resolve within a few days up to 1 week.
  • The molecular detection of ECoV in the feces of clinically affected horses ranges between 3-25 days.


  • The epidemiology of ECoV has remained poorly characterized.
  • ECoV in adult horses has been reported with increasing frequency in North America, Japan and more recently in Europe.
  • Reported cases are either sporadic or linked to outbreaks.
  • Similar to BCoV, a feco-oral route of transmission is suspected.
  • While the morbidity rates for ECoV vary from 10-83% depending on the horse population affected, the reported mortality rates have remained low.
  • While cases of ECoV are reported year around, the number of observed cases appears to increase during the colder months of the year.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Kooijman L J, James K, Mapes S M, Theelan M J P & Pusterla N (2017) Seroprevalence and risk factors for infection with equine coronavirus in healthy horses in the USA. Vet J 220, 91-94 PubMed.
  • Kooijman L J, Mapes S M & Pusterla N (2016) Development of an equine coronavirus-specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to determine serologic responses in naturally infected horses. J Vet Diag Invest 28 (4), 414-418 PubMed.
  • Pusterla N, Vin R, Leutenegger C et al (2016) Equine coronavirus: an emerging enteric virus of adult horses. Equine Vet Educ 28 (4), 2176-223 VetMedResource.
  • Fielding C L, Higgins J K, Higgins J C et al (2015) Disease associated with equine coronavirus infection and high case fatality rate. J Vet Intern Med 29 (1), 307-310 PubMed.
  • Giannitti F, Diab S, Mete A et al (2015) Necrotizing enteritis and hyperammonemic encephalopathy associated with equine coronavirus infection in equids. Vet Pathol 52 (6), 1148-1156 PubMed.
  • Nemoto M, Oue Y, Higuchi T et al (2015) Low prevalence of equine coronavirus in foals in the largest thoroughbred horse breeding region of Japan 2012-2014. Acta Vet Scandinavia 57, 53 PubMed.
  • Pusterla N, Holzenkaempfer N, Mapes S & Kass P (2015) Prevalence of equine coronavirus in nasal secretions from horses with fever and upper respiratory tract infection. Vet Rec 177 (11), 289 PubMed.
  • Miszczak F, Tesson V, Kin N et al (2014) First detection of equine coronavirus (ECoV) in Europe. Vet Microbiol 171 (1-2), 206-209 PubMed.
  • Slovis NM, Elam J, Estrada M et al (2014) Infectious agents associated with diarrhoea in neonatal foals in central Kentucky: a comprehensive molecular study. Equine Vet J 46 (3), 311-316 PubMed.
  • Pusterla N, Mapes S, Wademan C et al (2013) Emerging outbreaks associated with equine coronavirus in adult horses. Vet Microbiol 162 (1), 228-231 PubMed.
  • Oue Y, Ishihara R, Edamatsu H et al (2011) Isolation of an equine coronavirus from adult horses with pyrogenic and enteric disease and its antigenic and genomic characterization in comparison with the NC99 strain. Vet Microbiol 150 (1-2), 41-48 PubMed.