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Blain (animal disease)

Abstract

Blain was an animal disease of unknown etiology that was well known in the eighteenth- and nineteenth centuries. It is unclear whether it is still extant, or what modern disease it corresponds to.

According to Ephraim Chambers' eighteenth-century "Cyclopaedia, or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences", blain was "a " (in the archaic eighteenth-century sense of the word, meaning "disease") occurring in animals, consisting in a "Bladder growing on the Root of the Tongue against the Wind-Pipe", which "at length swelling, stops the Wind". It was thought to occur "by great chafing, and heating of the Stomach".

Blain is also mentioned in "Cattle: Their Breeds, Management, and Diseases", published in 1836, where it is also identified as "gloss-anthrax". W. C. Spooner's 1888 book "The History, Structure, Economy and Diseases of the Sheep" also identifies blain as being the same as gloss-anthrax.

Modern scholarship suggests that "gloss-anthrax" was not the same disease as modern-day anthrax, but instead could have been foot-and-mouth disease, or a viral infection with a secondary "Fusobacterium necrophorum" infection. It has also been suggested that it may have been due to a variant strain of true anthrax that is no longer in existence. Other sources also report epizootics known as "blain" or "black-blain" in the 13th and 14th centuries, but it is not clear if the disease involved was the same as "gloss-anthrax".