Research News: 03/04

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Antibiotic Resistance In Veterinary Hospitals
Antibiotic-resistant super-strains of bacteria are well documented in human hospitals and can cause major problems with serious infections. Overuse of unnecessary antibiotics is a major factor in encouraging antibiotic-resistant strains to develop.

A study at the University of Montreal Veterinary School, published in the December 2003 Canadian Veterinary Journal, found that when antibiotic sensitivities of bacteria cultured at the hospital between 1996 and 1998 were compared to those from earlier years there was a sharp rise in the number of strains resistant to common antibiotics such as penicillin, gentamicin and tetracycline.

These findings alert veterinary hospitals to avoid routine use of antibiotics. Horse owners must also do their share by not automatically reaching for antibiotics for newborn foals, horses with viral respiratory infections or wounds. When symptoms show that antibiotics may be indicated, ask your veterinarian what drug to use. He or she may even decide to do a culture and sensitivity test so that the best antibiotic for the job can be chosen. When you use an antibiotic to treat an infection with a bacterial strain that isn’t sensitive to it in the first place, your results will be poor and the bacteria will be stimulated to become even more resistant to that drug.

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Blood Test For Immature Small Strongyles
Immature small strongyles can be present inside the lining of the horse’s intestine in high numbers, but until now we had no reliable way to detect them, since they don’t produce eggs. This may change, though, helping you make more specific deworming drug selections.

A University of Liverpool study appearing in the January 2004 International Journal of Parasitology found that testing the serum for levels of the specific antibody IgG(T) to two protein complexes found in the small strongyle larvae was highly successful in diagnosing both naturally occurring infections and those produced experimentally.

The availability of a blood test for small strongyle larvae would make it possible for horse owners to treat the horse before the parasites emerge and cause considerable intestinal damage.

Use of the blood test before deworming would also allow the treating veterinarian to be forewarned when large parasite burdens are present. In times like these, the horse can be pretreated with drugs like flunixin (Banamine) to help prevent negative reactions to deworming large parasitic infestations.

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No More Scoping' Urine Test For Ulcers
A simple urine test originally developed to screen for stomach ulcers in people may work in horses, too.

Called the sucrose permeability test, it measures the amount of the sugar sucrose found in the urine after a test dose is given orally. Sucrose is a disaccharide, which is a sugar composed of one glucose and one fructose molecule.

Disaccharides don’t cross healthy intestinal linings. They’re first broken down by digestive enzymes into their simpler components (glucose and fructose). Sucrose isn’t synthesized in the body either, so if it shows up in the urine it must have been absorbed intact through an erosion/damage in the intestinal lining.

A Texas A & M study published in the January 2004 American Journal of Veterinary Research reported that giving horses an oral dose of sucrose and testing the urine two to four hours later accurately predicted the presence of ulcers with an ulcer score greater than one (scale of one to three) 83% of the time. Since few veterinarians are equipped to do endoscopic exams of the stomach at the barn, this test could prove to be a fairly reliable way to screen suspected ulcer cases at home.