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 Anhold’s initial focus in Epona was to carry out standard tests for elevated white blood cell counts at the stable door rather than having to send blood samples off for testing, but he recently started looking at different markers in the blood.
A study he carried out with input from the University of Cambridge looked at levels of various markers in samples from around 150 horses over a season and pointed to a biochemical in the blood called serum amyloid A as being a useful marker of infections.
So Dr Anhold applied the portable to look for serum amyloid A and earlier this year he asked trainers, breeders and vets in Ireland, the UK and the US to try it out.
“They got really excited when they found it could help them to track how a sick foal was responding to treatment, or if they got a result that told them a horse should not be competing,” he says.
Keeping vets in the loop
A big question was who would actually carry out the tests, and Dr Anhold opted to cast the net wide.
“We are not out to replace lab testing – that serves a very important purpose – but this is a horse-side test,” he says. “So we designed the test such that it could be used by non-vets and vets alike.”
So far, trainers seem to use it mostly to test horses in the run up to competition, and vets can use it to make call-outs more efficient, according to Dr Anhold.
“If the vet visits an animal, they can get a result on the spot as to whether the horse has an infection and the severity of it, rather than having to wait for results to come back,” he says.
“And if the horse has an infection the vet can quickly start to use a whole series of procedures and medications. It makes things more efficient. And for me the golden result would be when vets and trainers are discussing what steps to take next on the basis of that rapid test.”
StableLab’s website launched recently and already online sales have been brisk, reports Dr Anhold, who believes the key is developing a product that suits the customer.
“The part that excites me the most – and this is the horseman in me – is that I understand how that works in practice,” he says. “We designed the assay around that from day one.”