Inflammatory Airway Disease (IAD) is a lower respiratory tract disease that causes problems in the horse racing industry. Studies have found that anything up to 50% of thoroughbred and standardbred racehorses in training suffer from the disease. However, the lack of overt symptoms that accompany it, other than a general poor performance on the track, means the disease often goes unnoticed.
Current diagnostic techniques are invasive, time-consuming and limited in their ability to detect lower airway disease. But a new "breath testing" technique could change all that.
Honours student Belinda Argent, under the supervision of Dr David Tivey (Department of Animal Science, Roseworthy Campus), has conducted trials of new testing procedures for IAD in horses, the results of which are eagerly awaited by veterinarians and trainers alike.
Ms Argent's study postulates that particular components of the breath expired by horses could be used as a direct marker of inflammatory disease occurring in the lungs.
"If this is proven to be the case," Ms Argent, says "it's expected that the test will not only be more sensitive diagnostically in the early stages of the disease, but also more readily accepted and utilised by trainers which will, in turn, hopefully be more effective in reducing the degree of damage caused by IAD in the horse racing industry."
The "breath test" method is stress-free for the animal and easily administered, using a simple bagging technique to trap breath and extract samples with a syringe for laboratory testing.