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A survey of respiratory viruses in New Zealand horses

Authors: Murray A, Dunowska M, McBrearty KA
Publication: New Zealand Veterinary Journal, Volume 61, Issue 5, pp 254-261, Sep 2013
Publisher: Taylor and Francis


AIMS: To determine which viruses circulate among selected populations of New Zealand horses and whether or not viral infections were associated with development of respiratory disease.

METHODS: Nasal swabs were collected from 33 healthy horses and 52 horses with respiratory disease and tested by virus isolation and/or PCR for the presence of equine herpesviruses (EHV) and equine rhinitis viruses.

RESULTS: Herpesviruses were the only viruses detected in nasal swab samples. When both the results of nasal swab PCR and virus isolation were considered together, a total of 41/52 (79%) horses with respiratory disease and 2/32 (6%) healthy horses were positive for at least one virus. As such, rates of virus detection were significantly higher (p<0.001) in samples from horses with respiratory disease than from healthy horses. More than half of the virus-positive horses were infected with multiple viruses. Infection with EHV-5 was most common (28 horses), followed by EHV-2 (27 horses), EHV-4 (21 horses) and EHV-1 (3 horses).

CONCLUSIONS: Herpesviruses were more commonly detected in nasal swabs from horses with respiratory disease than from healthy horses suggesting their aetiological involvement in the development of clinical signs among sampled horses. Further investigation to elucidate the exact relationships between these viruses and respiratory disease in horses is warranted.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Equine respiratory disease has been recognised as an important cause of wastage for the equine industry worldwide. It is likely multifactorial, involving complex interactions between different microorganisms, the environment and the host. Ability to control, or minimise, the adverse effects of equine respiratory disease is critically dependent on our understanding of microbial agents involved in these interactions. The results of the present study update our knowledge on the equine respiratory viruses currently circulating among selected populations of horses in New Zealand.

KEY WORDS: Equid herpesvirus, equine herpesvirus, equine respiratory disease, EHV-2, EHV-5, EHV-1, EHV-4, equine rhinitis virus, ERAV, ERBV, poor performance
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