Horse Health Advancements Discussed at UK Gluck Foundation Board Meeting

The University of Kentucky's Gluck Equine Research Foundation Board of Directors met Nov. 1 and reviewed the wide array of research advancements and developments made by its members throughout the year, among other topics.

Gluck Center director Mats Troedsson DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACT, ECAR, presented the board with a few of the major developments that members of the foundation worked on thus far in 2010.

Udeni B.R. Balasuriya, BVSc, MS, PhD; Thomas Chambers, PhD; and colleagues conducted a study through which they developed a new form of diagnostic test for equine influenza based on reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction. The new test is the most sensitive assay developed to date.

In another study R. Frank Cook, PhD, and Charles M. Issel, DVM, PhD, developed a new polymerase chain reaction test that can detect the equine infectious anemia (EIA) virus weeks and even months earlier than a traditional Coggins test. They performed this research in conjunction with European and South American scientists in response to EIA outbreaks this year in Europe.

Also along the lines of diagnostic tests, a research team led by Sergey C. Artiushin, PhD, and John F. Timoney, MVB, MRCVS, MS, PhD, has developed a quick and portable assay for the detection of Streptococcus equi (the bacterium that causes strangles) and Leptospira interrogans (which can lead to leptospirosis, a cause of abortion and moon blindness). According to Troedsson, the test is just as sensitive as traditional tests that are available, but it does not require expensive equipment. Additionally, the test takes just two hours to complete, whereas traditional tests take significantly longer.

Finally, Troedsson reviewed the January arrival of the world's first foal resulting from pre-implantation genetic testing and verification of an embryo. Simply put, researchers removed a fertilized embryo from the dam and tested the embryo for diseases. They froze the embryo to temporarily stop development until testing was complete. Upon receiving negative test results for disease, scientists returned the embryo to a surrogate mother, who carried the filly to term. The team, led by Troedsson and John Dobrinsky, PhD, the executive director of the Minitube International Center for Biotechnology in Mount Horeb, Wisc., hopes that this breakthrough will aid in disease prevention and control in the future.

The Gluck Center also saw Thomas Tobin, MVB, MSc, PhD, MRCVS, Dipl. ABT, develop the reference standards for drug testing of performance horses, and James N. MacLeod, VMD, PhD, make advancements in equine stem cell research and in defining the specific nucleotide boundaries for protein coding genes in the horse.

Other developments discussed at the meeting included studies of Streptococcus zooepidemicus (which can cause respiratory disease), performed by Timoney; research into improving the treatment of foals diagnosed with Rhodococcus equi (which can cause severe pneumonia and other problems), and also a deeper look at immunosuppressants and developmental signs of Lawsonia intracellularis (the causative agent of equine proliferative enteropathy), both performed by David W. Horohov, PhD; and finally, the development and commercialization of an ELISA test for equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), which was headed by Daniel K. Howe, PhD, and Michelle Yeargan.

In addition to discussing the scientific breakthroughs made by researchers, Troedsson noted that a new scientist had joined the equine reproduction research circle at Gluck this year: Barry Ball, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACT, the new Albert G. Clay Endowed Chair in Equine Reproduction. Troedsson introduced Ball to the board and welcomed him officially to Gluck during the meeting. Ball joins the Gluck Center from the University of California, Davis, and is one of the leading equine reproduction specialists in the nation, having published more than 100 research papers over the course of his career.

Near the conclusion of the meeting, doctoral candidate Allen Page, DVM, gave a presentation on the findings from his ongoing study on Lawsonia intracellularis.

Page's long-term goal is to determine the prevalence of farms that harbor L. intracellularis, perform a risk factor survey for exposed foals (to find out what foals with antibodies against L. intracellularis have in common), and to ascertain the effect that exposure to L. intracellularis has on yearling sale prices.

Since beginning his study in August, Page has tested the serum of approximately 340 weanlings from around the Lexington, Ky., area. Consistent with the results of a previous study Page participated in, the number of positive test results has risen over the past three months and are expected to rise through November. 

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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