Blood test to ID early bone damage in horses shows promise

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Jan 26, 2009
By dvm360.com staff
Fort Collins, Colo. -- A blood test that can show whether a horse has minor bone damage long before it develops into more serious problems shows a high success rate in tests and should be coming to the market soon.

"The goal is to identify the at-risk horse," says C. Wayne McIlwraith, BVSc (DVM), PhD, FRCVS, DSc, Dipl. ACVS, professor of surgery and director of Colorado State University's Equine Orthopaedic Research Center, where the test has been developed. Essentially, it would look for blood antibodies that indicate micro-damage that might not even show up in early X-rays. It would show whether cartilage or bone is wearing down. A similar test is used in human medicine to discover signs of osteoarthritis.

At present, the test shows about an 80 percent success rate in horses at CSU.

"We're working with a private company on getting a commercial platform ready within about two years," McIlwraith says. The end screening panel that eventually becomes available is likely to be multi-faceted, he says.

The test should have wide-ranging application throughout the horse industry, including the racing industry, where the hope is that fractures, breakdowns and deaths on racetracks could be reduced significantly. Similar benefits are seen for performance horses.

"Horses of all breeds should be able to get this test," McIlwraith says.