Saturday, November 27, 2010

New strangles test developed

Scientists at the University of Maine have developed a novel rapid test for strangles.

Current culture techniques require several days to confirm a diagnosis of strangles. The new test, which detects a specific protein on the Streptococcus equi bacterium, can produce a result in a matter of hours.

A grant of nearly $500,000 from the Maine Technology Asset Fund has made the development possible. The project also involves renovations at the UMaine JF Witter Teaching and Research Center to create an animal handling area for disease diagnosis, an equine isolation area, and a technology transfer center classroom with video-endoscopy equipment.  This will be used for training veterinarians as well as being involved in research into infectious diseases.

The grant will also fund the purchase of portable endoscopes for use by Maine veterinarians at farms and stables around the state.

The test has already proved successful in early trials. Now the new funding will allow the scientists to carry out a large scale trial to check its reliability and efficacy before making it commercially available.

Principal investigator is Dr Robert Causey, a veterinarian and associate professor in the University of Maine Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences.

"There's no doubt that the market for this is potentially global" says Causey. "Wherever there are horses there is this disease. No one has ever tried to do this before. This puts Maine right in the front of strangles research."

"The economic impact of an outbreak can be devastating to a commercial equine facility."

The kits, which are being developed by Maine Biotechnology Services (MBS) in Portland, have an antibody on a membrane that changes colour when exposed to a strangles protein.

The strangles test kit is the first to be developed using this technology. As additional new antibodies are developed by MBS, the test kits could be adapted to more quickly detect and diagnose other equine infections.

No comments: