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HORIBA Introduces Simple PCR Test for Faster Strangles Diagnosis

An illustration of a horse and the POCKIT instrument.
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HORIBA UK Veterinary is supporting Strangles Awareness Week 2023 to educate and improve biosecurity for this devastating equine specific disease. Strangles is a bacterial infection of the upper respiratory tract caused by Streptococcus equi, which has a 100% infection rate in horses with no immunity and up to 10% fatality in some outbreaks. Rapid detection and isolation of infected horses can protect individual horses and yards from its catastrophic effects. So, HORIBA is highlighting the benefits of fast PCR testing for S.equi in under two hours, available with its POCKIT™ Central veterinary PCR analyser and ideal for in-house use.

POCKIT’s novel automated iiPCR-based technology is extremely easy to use and enables vets to rapidly detect S.equi in swab, flush or wash samples for strangles infection or carrier status. As it detects bacterial DNA, PCR testing will sensitively and accurately identify current infection, whereas serology tests may only indicate previous exposure. PCR also offers a substantial increase in speed to strangles diagnosis compared to bacterial culture, which generally involves an external laboratory, with incubation and results taking up to 7 days.

PCR can be perceived by vets and staff as a tricky process requiring extensive specialist facilities and highly trained staff. However, POCKIT is compact with a footprint not much larger than a laptop, and can be up and running within 30 minutes. As a fully automated platform, it needs no additional equipment nor complicated test processes. This simplicity means the facility of PCR testing can be readily brought directly into vet practices along with its associated benefits.

“We know that strangles can happen anywhere. So, we recognise the need for improved diagnostics to enable the implementation of basic management practices, such as routine screening and outbreak management, to greatly reduce the risk of infections,” said Lisa Martin, HORIBA UK Veterinary. “Rapid diagnosis is not only beneficial to an infected horse by enabling treatment sooner, but it also ensures its correct isolation to prevent infection spread and support biosecurity.”

“Additionally, if unidentified or untreated, carrier horses can remain infectious for months or even years. Developing faster tests that are accurate and very easy to use is key to improving strangles prevention and management. Running a strangles PCR test using POCKIT is now really no more complicated than setting up a standard clinical chemistry or haematology test.”

As well as S.equi, the POCKIT Central offers over 190 further veterinary tests for bacteria, viruses, parasites and protozoa. Up to 8 tests of any combination, with no risk of cross-contamination, can be processed simultaneously 24 hours a day by any easily trained member of staff. The process is extremely simple - quality DNA from multiple samples is automatically extracted and amplified by directly loading patient samples into the analyser and running the test via its user-friendly touch screen, where final test results are also displayed.  All steps of the PCR test process and a UV light sterilisation cycle are completed in just 85 minutes.

Strangles Awareness Week 2023 is a global, collaborative campaign led by Redwings Horse Sanctuary from 1st to 7th May 2023. It aims to educate owners and equine professionals alike on the risks of strangles to horses and how to protect them by preventing its spread through improved biosecurity. More information is available at: https://www.redwings.org.uk/strangles/strangles-awareness-week

Further supporting Strangles Awareness Week, HORIBA is also offering a free to attend strangles prevention focused webinar. Professor Mark Bowen FRCVS will present, “Vaccination, serology and GP lavage - how to combine tools to keep strangles at bay” on 1st June 2023. Registration for the CPD webinar is available at: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/177201023165053527?source=Press+Release