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New Tests Accurately Detect Horse Disease / July 13, 2000 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Researchers have developed monoclonal antibodies that detect both Babesia equii and Babesia caballi.

Read: more about the tests in Agricultural Research.

New Tests Accurately Detect Horse Disease

By Kathryn Barry Stelljes
July 13, 2000

Horse owners who transport their animals internationally for equestrian competitions may soon have an easier time ensuring their horses are healthy, thanks to new tests for piroplasmosis.

The United States is free of this tick-borne disease, also known as equine babesiosis. To keep the disease from infecting American animals, horses transported here for races, shows and other competitions must be certified free of the disease.

That can be costly, because horses must be quarantined while they are awaiting test results and must often be retested to ensure accurate results. In addition, American horses that travel to other countries where piroplasmosis is present must be tested before they can return.

The new tests--one for each of the two parasites that can cause the disease--should speed up the process once they are accepted by international regulatory authorities as appropriate tests. The current test, called a complement fixation test, can give false positive or false negative readings. The new tests rely on molecular techniques that give more accurate results.

Another advantage: The new tests do not require the use of live horses. Genetic material used in the new tests can be grown in bacteria. The complement fixation test relies on obtaining parasites and blood with antibodies from infected live horses.

Donald Knowles, at ARS’ Animal Disease Research Unit in Pullman, Wash., and collaborators at Washington State University developed the tests. ARS and WSU have applied for patents. VMRD, a Pullman company that produces diagnostic test kits, plans to sell the tests under a patent license within the next 5 years.

A story on these tests appears in the July issue of Agricultural Research, the agency’s monthly magazine.

ARS is the chief research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Scientific contact: Donald Knowles, ARS Animal Disease Research Unit, Pullman, Wash., phone (509) 335-6022, fax (509) 335-8328, dknowles@vetmed.wsu.edu.

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