Colorado State veterinarians take on novel equine herpesvirus study

Colorado State veterinarians take on novel equine herpesvirus study

Jan 19, 2012
By staff
Fort Collins, Colo. -- A Colorado State University (CSU) study will look at how equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1) may compromise the immune system immediately upon entering the “gate” of a horse’s respiratory system, the university reports today.

The CSU veterinary study, directed by Drs. Gabrielle Landolt and Gisela Hussey, is specifically looking at the transmission pathway through the airway and throat potentially resulting in neurological damage, abortion and possibly death to the horse.

"The study specifically concentrates on the lining of the respiratory systems, called the epithelium, which keeps the airway moist and is a barrier to pathogens,” the university says. “The epithelial cells also serve a critical function in shaping the immunological response, including secreting chemicals to attack pathogens and determining and initiating the cascade of immune responses in the rest of the body.”

“We believe that the herpesvirus finds a way to ‘hide’ from the immune response, and we also know that if an immune system doesn’t trigger a good response at the first sign of infection, viruses like this one take off,” Landolt explains. "That combination of events may take place in the horse’s respiratory system, and if we can crack the equine herpesevirus secret to getting through that gateway and compromising the immune system at that point of entry, we may be better able to find treatments and preventative measures to stop outbreaks of the virus.”

The outcome of this research will also help scientists understand how herpes viruses in all species may impact immune systems, Hussey explains. “This study is innovative because it is the first study to focus on defining the immune responses at the respiratory epithelium and how the virus controls the immune system,” she says.

EHV-1 is considered highly contagious among horses. The virus can go airborne for short distances, but is most typically spread through nose-to-nose contact, or through close contact with contaminated equipment, clothing, water and/or feed.