Testing kit for infection looks like a runner for horses
A new, rapid test offers on-the-spot results about whether a horse is under stress from infection
Dr Heinrich Anhold has developed a testing kit which can quickly check if a horse has an infection or not, and also quantify any infection
How do you know if a horse is sick? If the animal is seriously ill, it will probably be obvious, but being a little under par could be harder to spot. Yet being under par could affect the performance of a racehorse or show jumper.
Entrepreneur Dr Heinrich Anhold has been developing an approach to get results on the spot about whether a horse is under stress from a potential infection.
“We have developed an immediate test to tell if a horse has an infection or not,” he explains. “It confirms infection and it quantifies the infection – the marker we look for in the blood is not normally there if the horse is healthy, and the more of it that is there, the harder the body is fighting infection.”
To demonstrate the test, which is called StableLab, Dr Anhold takes a small sample of blood from Ben, a horse at his family’s stable in Sligo.
Ben flinches a little and I hold the horse’s head as the blood is drawn, but then it’s all over and Ben walks back across the paddock.
Dr Anhold immediately mixes a few drops of the blood with a solution from the kit and places the sample on a small plastic slide.
Within a couple of minutes a pink “control” line appears on the slide window to show the assay is working, and there’s no colour at the “test” line – so the result shows that Ben is in fine fettle.
If Ben had an infection, explains Dr Anhold, a second pink line would have shown up and we could compare the line’s intensity to a small reference card to see how much of the “biomarker” was present in the blood.
Prone to infection
The core technology itself is not new, explains Dr Anhold, but he has been using his horse sense to put the test together in a way that will work at the stable door.
He founded a company, Epona Biotech based at Sligo Institute of Technology, and started to develop the portable horse-side test.
“Most horses in training don’t often get sick, but they are prone to various injuries and ailments – lung infections in race horses or joint-problems in show-jumpers are like tennis elbow in tennis players,” says Dr Anhold, who was a competitive show-jumper before studying biochemistry at NUI Galway.
“We wanted to develop a product for the people who work with these horses on a daily basis, to help them manage their horses’ health and keep them right.”