A recently discovered virus, which can lead to severe neurological disease and may prove fatal, can now be identified using a new diagnostic test developed by Portugese biotech company Equigerminal.
New Equine Virus (NEV) was first identified in 2013 by Portuguese scientist Isabel Fidalgo-Carvalho, during the course of her PhD studies at the Universities of Oporto and Pittsburg.
She noticed unusual anaemia and severe neurological signs in horses, which initially she attributed to Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA or “swamp fever.”)
Affected horses cross-reacted with EIA virus but gave negative results in the official (“Coggins”) test. Subsequent research found that the horses were actually suffering from a different disease.
The virus could be isolated from blood and cerebrospinal fluid of sick horses. It was identified as a lentivirus (the family of viruses that include human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), as well as EIAV) and was given the name “New Equine Virus” (NEV).
NEV has been shown to cause anaemia and respiratory and neurological signs. Sometimes it can prove fatal.
Fidalgo-Carvalho points out “We believe that NEV has been undetected for so long because previously signs were being attributed to other diseases – such as swamp fever or herpes virus”
Once the horse has been tested the appropriate treatment can be given and the spread of the disease prevented. Treatment is currently targeted towards improving the general well-being of the horse, health monitoring, and boosting the animal’s immune system.
Having developed the test, their aim now is to study the NEV seroprevalence worldwide and to explore the association of NEV with equine viral encephalitis.
The next stage is to find a treatment and hopefully, a cure for NEV.
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