Surveillance program targets herd health (Sponsored by Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health)

Nationwide testing focuses on four major equine respiratory pathogens
Mar 01, 2009


(Image: Getty Images)
Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health (ISPAH) is partnering with equine practitioners and UC Davis to improve the strategies veterinarians use to attack equine respiratory issues—identifying diseases before they spread in order to target specific pathogens with tailor-made vaccines and better biosecurity programs.

ISPAH started working with veterinarians across the United States more than a year ago, conducting a respiratory disease surveillance study focused on combating four major equine respiratory pathogens: Equine herpes viruses 1 and 4 (EHV-1 and 4) equine influenza virus (EIV) and Streptococcus equi (S equi). The Equine Infectious Respiratory Disease Surveillance Program provides free and rapid diagnostic testing to ISPAH customers in the field via kits consisting of 15 patient sampling sets, each of which includes two nasal swabs, one 15-ml conical Eppendorf tube containing 1-ml of virus transport media, and one 5-ml EDTA vacutainer tube. The kit also includes a questionnaire designed to capture important information about the patient and general management .

The samples are then sent for analysis to Nicola Pusterla, DVM, PhD, at the Lucy Whittier Molecular and Diagnostic Core Facility University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. The cost for this service is paid by ISPAH. Results are returned to the practitioner within 36 hours.

PCR testing is performed on samples and then they are archived for each patient in case additional testing is indicated.

"There are multiple purposes of this program," Dr. Pusterla says. "The first is to assist veterinarians in the field with obtaining an accurate and timely diagnosis during an acute respiratory disease outbreak so that they can provide clients with optimal treatment, quarantine, and vaccination strategies for their horses.

"We also want to gain a better understanding of the prevalence and epidemiology of respiratory pathogens, identify and monitor the current circulating strains of these respiratory viruses, and evaluate the efficacy of current vaccination protocols."

Wendy Vaala, VMD, DACVIM, an ISPAH equine technical services specialist, and one of the foremost equine neonatal experts in the country, says in addition to having great products; ISPAH is here to contribute accurate and clinically relevant information to the scientific community," she says. "One gap in our approach to treating equine respiratory diseases is that we do not really know the true incidence of these viral and bacterial respiratory pathogens. There are many veterinarians in the field without a local lab to provide rapid diagnostics; so rapid identification of the viral or bacterial cause of respiratory disease is often pretty tough."

Dr. Vaala says that for many viral respiratory diseases treatments for individual horses are symptomatic. But without knowing the cause of disease, the overall herd health of the rest of horses in the barn or at the track may be in jeopardy.

"By knowing the cause of the outbreak a veterinarian can institute appropriate quarantine procedures and review the vaccination protocols," Dr. Vaala says. Through the surveillance program, Dr. Pusterla is building up a solid database to help establish the incidence of important respiratory pathogens and to help match up clinical symptoms, with confirmed causes of disease. To date, the lab has received more than 400 samples.

"We are offering veterinarians the ability to make more informed decisions while learning how to better prevent these diseases," Dr. Vaala says. "It is rewarding to treat horses and have them get better, but it is also nice to know what you are dealing with and how to reduce the risk of future disease outbreaks.

"Wouldn't it be nice to know if you are dealing with influenza, strangles or something else? In addition, there may be yet unidentified causes of respiratory disease that this program may help uncover!"