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A Dead Cert : Experiment 3

A Dead Cert

3. Horses and ponies experimentally infected with equine herpes virus

Animal Health Trust (Newmarket) and the Institute for Animal Health (Newbury)

In a collaborative study, scientists experimentally infected four Welsh Mountain ponies with equine herpes virus, while their US counterparts at Cornell University similarly infected four Thoroughbred horses.

Symptoms associated with this infection include respiratory and neurological disease as well as abortion in pregnant mares. The authors noted that one of the thoroughbreds suffered from loss of muscle coordination as a result of the experimental infection.

Blood samples were taken from all the animals for laboratory study. No mention was made in the article as to the fate of the animals after the study was completed.

Comment: It should be noted that equine herpes virus is easily spread when infected horses come into close contact with each other, e.g. at stud, sales or training establishments. The virus is easily killed by disinfectant. However, once infected, the virus may be shed by a latent carrier during periods of stress, a condition common to all race horses. Even vaccinated horses can present a risk to other equines. This is because ‘vaccinated animals which are clinically immune may shed significant quantities of virus from the respiratory tract’ (ref. Mumford JA, ‘Equine Influenza: The risks and challenges’, 7th Int Congress on Equine Infectious Diseases, Tokyo).

This research received financial support from the Horserace Betting Levy Board.

Kydd JH, Davis-Poynter NJ, Birch J, Hannant D, Minke J, Audonneet J-C, Antczak DF, Ellis SA. Journal of General Virology.2006; 87:2507-2515. A molecular approach to the identification of cytotoxic T-lymphocyte epitopes within equine herpesvirus 1.

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