A diagnostic test to identify new equine virus, thought to be present in up to 10% of horses, is available for the first time.

A diagnostic test to identify new equine virus (NEV) is now available for the first time.

Thought to be present in up to 10% of horses, NEV is often misdiagnosed or hidden by other diseases that induce similar symptoms, like anaemia and neurological issues.

It is most commonly confused with the swamp fever virus (EIAV) and equine herpesviruses (EHV).

Discovery

Isabel Fidalgo Carvalho and Alexandre Vieira Pires.
Isabel Fidalgo Carvalho and Alexandre Vieira Pires.

NEV was first identified in 2013 by Portuguese scientist and veterinarian Isabel Fidalgo Carvalho, while completing her PhD in equine sciences. She later launched equine biotech firm Equigerminal in Portugal in 2011 with fellow equine scientist, inventor and entrepreneur Alexandre Vieira Pires.

Explaining, Dr Carvalho said: “During my time at university and at Equigerminal, I noticed unusual anaemia and severe neurological signs in horses, which in my PhD I wrongly hypothesised to be attributed to swamp fever. I then realised, through the samples, that this virus was actually closer to equine HIV – new equine virus, or NEV.”

They have spent the past five years developing a diagnostic test and a potential cure for NEV and the results can be seen in development of the test, which can be used by vets, horse owners and in veterinary labs.

Process

A vet takes a sample of the patient’s blood and sends it to the Equigerminal lab, where it is tested and the results returned to the owner or vet. Once the horse has been tested, the appropriate treatment can be given and the spread of the disease prevented, Equigerminal said.

Treatment is currently targeted towards improving the general well-being of the horse, health monitoring, and boosting the animal’s immune system. The next stage is to find a treatment, and ideally a cure, for NEV, Dr Carvalho said.

Having developed the test, Dr Carvalho said: “We now need to raise awareness of the problem and help vets to diagnose this disease correctly.”

Equigerminal also hopes to develop further equine health care and welfare products and services, such as DNA testing services and pathogen screening to aid the world’s almost 60 million horses.

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