A diagnostic test, able to identify a deadly virus believed to be present in up to 10 percent of horses, is now available for the first time for horse lovers everywhere.
New Equine Virus (NEV) was first identified in 2013 by Isabel Fidalgo Carvalho and Alexandre Pires. Isabel and Alexandre went on to found Portugal-based equine biotech firm Equigerminal in order to develop an accurate and commercially viable NEV diagnostic test that can be used by vets, vet labs and horse owners.
After many years of research and testing the diagnostic test is now launching to the equine community.
NEV - the equine equivalent of HIV - is often misdiagnosed or hidden by other diseases that induce similar symptoms, like anemia and neurological issues in horses. It is most commonly confused with the West Nile Virus, Swamp Fever virus (EIAV) and Equine Herpesviruses (EHV)
Horses thought to have the highly-contagious Swamp Fever can be ordered to be culled by officials in an attempt to stop its spread - a tragedy for the horses, and highly distressing and costly for owners.
By testing a number of horses with anemia Equigerminal researchers first believed they had found the presence of a divergent strain of the Swamp Fever Virus (EIAV) - because the horses cross reacted with EIAV, but were negative in the official tests (the Coggins test). But subsequent research found they were actually suffering from NEV
NEV, which can lead to severe neurological diseases and also prove fatal, can now be identified through the use of the new diagnostic test developed by Equigerminal.
A veterinarian is required to take the horse’s blood, which is sent to the Equigerminal lab where it is tested and then results are returned to the owner/vet.
Once the horse has been tested the appropriate treatment can be given and the spread of the disease prevented. The treatment is currently targeted towards improving the general well-being of the horse, health monitoring, and boosting the animal’s immune system. The next stage is to find a treatment, and ideally a cure for NEV.
Equigerminal is an established biotech company specializing in equine health. It already offers more than 60 lab-testing services to horse owners and vets.
NEV was discovered by Portuguese scientist, veterinarian and entrepreneur Isabel Fidalgo Carvalho while completing her PhD in Equine Sciences at the Universities of Oporto and Pittsburgh.
“During my time at University and at Equigerminal, I noticed unusual anemia and severe neurological signs in horses, which in my PhD I wrongly hypothesized to be attributed to Swamp Fever”, says Carvalho.
“I realized through the samples that this virus was actually closer to equine HIV – New Equine Virus, or NEV”.
Carvalho launched Equigerminal in 2011 with fellow equine scientist, inventor and entrepreneur, Alexandre Vieira Pires.
“We have spent the last five years developing a diagnostic test and a potential cure for NEV”, explains Pires.
“We now need to raise awareness of the problem and help vets to diagnose this disease correctly.”
Equigerminal hopes to develop further equine healthcare and welfare products and services, such as DNA testing services and pathogen screening to aid the world’s almost 60 million horses.