Diagnostic assays for equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM) developed under the leadership of Daniel Howe, PhD, a molecular parasitologist at the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center, are now available exclusively at Equine Diagnostic Solutions LLC (EDS).

The new diagnostic tests are quantitative enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) based on multiple immunogenic proteins located on the surface of the Sarcocystis neurona parasite, which causes the neurologic disease EPM. Horses infected with S. neurona produce a vigorous antibody response to these parasite proteins, which can be accurately measured with the ELISAs.

"Recent studies have demonstrated the clinical utility of the new tests for the accurate diagnosis of EPM," Howe said. "Specifically, by using the ELISAs to compare the amount of antibody present in the serum versus the cerebrospinal fluid of a horse, it is now possible to achieve a much more reliable assessment of whether the horse is suffering from EPM."

Howe joined the faculty at the Gluck Center in 1999 and heads a research program focused on the molecular biology of S. neurona.

The research leading to the development of these assays was made possible by funds to Howe's laboratory from the Amerman Family Equine Research Endowment.

The development and validation of the diagnostic assays was a collaborative effort between Howe and Michelle Yeargan, research specialist at the Gluck Center; Martin Furr, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, Adelaide C. Riggs chair in equine medicine at Virginia Tech; Steve Reed, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, a world-renowned expert in equine neurologic diseases at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington; and Jennifer Morrow, PhD, and Amy Graves, MT(ASCP), at EDS.

The exclusive rights to the second-generation diagnostic tests for EPM were obtained by EDS in January.

EDS, which opened in August 2009, is a new diagnostics laboratory located on the Coldstream Research Campus of the University of Kentucky. It was opened by Morrow and Graves, who were previously the principal scientists of Equine Biodiagnostics Inc. (EBI), which was founded in 1996 through Kentucky Technologies Inc. (KTI) and based on groundbreaking EPM research by David Granstrom, DVM, PhD, Howe's predecessor at the Gluck Center.

For more information, contact Howe at 859/218-1113 or Morrow at 859/288-5255. For more information on Howe's laboratory, visit www.ca.uky.edu/gluck/HoweDK.asp, or for more information on EDS, visit www.equinediagnosticsolutions.com.

Daniel Howe, PhD, is a molecular parasitologist at the Gluck Equine Research Center. Jenny Blandford is the Gluck Equine Research Foundation assistant at the Gluck Center.

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