Challenges in navigating molecular diagnostics for common equine respiratory viruses

Nicola Pusterla, Christian M. Leutenegger, Samantha Barnum, Cara Wademan, Emir Hodzic

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Equine respiratory viruses remain a leading cause of equine morbidity and mortality, with the resurgence of certain infections, an increasing population of elderly, more susceptible horses, the growth of international equine commerce, and an expansion in geographic distribution of pathogens. The focus of rapid diagnosis of infectious diseases has also shifted recently, with the appearance and increasing importance of nucleic acid amplification-based techniques, primarily polymerase chain reaction (PCR), at the expense of traditional methods such as clinical microbiology. While PCR is fast, reliable, cost-effective, and more sensitive than conventional detection methods, careful interpretation of diagnostic test results is required, taking into account the clinical status of the patient, sample type, assay used and biological relevance of the detected viruses. The interpretation of common equine respiratory viruses such as influenza virus (EIV), alpha herpesviruses (EHV-1, EHV-4), arteritis virus (EAV) and rhinoviruses (ERAV, ERBV) is straight forward as causality can generally be established. However, the testing of less-characterized viruses, such as the gamma herpesviruses (EHV-2, EHV-5), may be confusing, considering their well-established host relationship and frequent detection in both diseased and healthy horses. For selected viruses, absolute quantitation (EHV-1 and EHV-4) and genotyping (EIV and EHV-1) has allowed additional information to be gained regarding viral state and virulence, respectively. This information is relevant when managing outbreaks so that adequate biosecurity measures can be instituted and medical interventions can be considered. The goal of this review is to help the equine practitioner navigate through the rapidly expanding field of molecular diagnostics for respiratory viruses and facilitate the interpretation of results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105746
JournalVeterinary Journal
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Diagnostics
  • Horses
  • Interpretation
  • qPCR
  • Respiratory viruses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary(all)


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