Investigation of an experimental infection model of equine coronavirus in adult horses

Emily Schaefer, Corey Harms, Molly Viner, Samantha Barnum, Nicola Pusterla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Equine coronavirus (ECoV) is a recently reported enteric disease of adult horses. Natural infection by ECoV has been reported in adult horses worldwide, whereas experimental infection has only been reported in juvenile horses. An experimental infection model is needed to study the clinical presentation, laboratory abnormalities, and pathophysiological changes associated with ECoV. Objectives: To investigate the clinical, hematologic, molecular, and serological features of adult horses experimentally infected with ECoV. Animals: Eight adult horses. Methods: Four horses were intragastrically infected with fecal material containing 109 genome equivalents of ECoV. Four additional horses were exposed daily to the feces from the experimentally-infected horses. Monitoring included physical examinations, as well as daily nasal swab, whole blood, and fecal collection for molecular detection of ECoV. Blood was collected every other day for hematologic analysis and weekly for serologic analysis. Results: All 8 horses shed ECoV in feces. Six of the 8 horses (75%) exhibited mild, clinical disease with soft, formed manure; 1 horse exhibited transient pyrexia. All horses maintained total white cell counts within normal limits, but 3 horses developed transient lymphopenia. No statistically significant differences (P =.20) were observed in quantity of fecal shedding of ECoV between the 2 groups. Conclusions and Clinical Importance: Experimental infection of adult horses with ECoV was associated with mild and self-limiting clinical signs, transient lymphopenia, and fecal shedding of ECoV, which mimics natural infection. No differences between experimentally-infected horses and horses exposed to ECoV-containing feces were identified. Results of our study support a fecal-oral route of transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Veterinary Internal Medicine
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


  • enteric
  • experimental infection
  • polymerase chain reaction
  • serology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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