A disorder called WFFS has been a hot topic these past weeks – particular on social media. Here is breeding director Dr. Thomas Nissen with background information and on how the Holsteiner Verband deals with this issue.
WFFS is short for a genetic disorder, ‘Warmblood Fragile Foal Syndrome‘. Foals affected by this inherited disorder are not viable, as they have a congenital weakness of the connective tissue resulting in fragile skin susceptible to tearing. As foals affected by WFFS are very rarely born alive, most affected foetuses are supposedly aborted at an early stage. WFFS is an autosomal recessive trait, so offspring can only be affected when both sire and dam carry the mutant gene. In this case, the likelihood for the foal to be affected is 25 percent.
There has not been much research on this genetic disorder yet. With no WFFS cases known in Holstein, the Holsteiner Verband is going to look into further preventive measures with great carefulness and a sense of proportion. One case in the USA does not justify panic-fuelled reactions here. We are involved in an upcoming research project instigated by the FN aiming to study the prevalence of the disorder and how it is passed on. We will then take the appropriate measures depending on the results. Already now, stallion and mare owners may have their horses DNA tested.