Objective—To identify risk factors associated with development of clinical neurologic signs in horses exposed to equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1).
Animals—36 adult horses.
Procedures—Blood samples collected before and after challenge inoculation with nonneuropathogenic or neuropathogenic EHV-1 were analyzed for leukocyte-associated viremia, serum neutralizing antibody, and EHV-1–specific cytotoxic T-lymphocyte precursors (CTLPs). Associations between variables and neurologic disease and correlations between age category or breed and development of neurologic disease were examined.
Results—9 horses developed CNS signs (ataxia, hind limb paresis or paralysis, bladder atony, or recumbency). Neurologic deficits were correlated with infection by a neuropathogenic strain of EHV-1, age > 20 years, high postexposure viremic load, and low preexposure concentration of CTLPs. No significant correlations were observed between preinfection titers or horse breed and postinfection development of neurologic signs.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Horses with high concentrations of preexisting CTLPs, regardless of age, strain of virus, or titer, were more likely to control the magnitude of postinfection leukocyte-associated viremia and subsequent development of neurologic disease; therefore, CTLPs appear to be a critical requirement for protective immunity against EHV-1–induced myeloencephalopathy. The importance of achieving immunity related to high concentrations of vaccine-induced CTLPs in horses at high risk for exposure to neuropathogenic strains of EHV-1 is indicated.
Objective—To evaluate a technique for identifying horses latently infected with neuropathogenic strains of equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1).
Animals—36 adult mares, 24 of which were experimentally infected as weanlings with neuropathogenic or nonneuropathogenic EHV-1.
Procedures—Mandibular lymph node (MLN) tissue was obtained from each horse via biopsy during general anesthesia. Purified DNA from MLNs was tested for EHV-1 DNA by use of a magnetic bead, sequencecapture, nested PCR assay. For MLNs that contained EHV-1 DNA, the 256-bp DNA fragments amplified via sequence-capture nested PCR were sequenced to determine the nucleotide at the polymorphic site that determines pathotype (ie, neuropathotype [G2254] or non-neuropathotype [A2254]).
Results—Latent viral DNA was detected in 26 of the 36 (72%) mares tested. Neuropathogenic and nonneuropathogenic EHV-1 genotypes were detected in the latently infected horses. In each mare previously infected with known EHV-1 pathotypes, the open reading frame 30 genotype of latent EHV-1 was identical to that of the strain that had been inoculated 4 to 5 years earlier. Latent viral DNA was detected in 10 of the 12 mares that were inoculated as weanlings with neuropathogenic strains of EHV-1. The detection rate of the sequence-capture PCR method for EHV-1 latency was double that of conventional nested or realtime PCR assays performed on the same MLN DNA preparations.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—The magnetic bead, sequence-capture, nested PCR technique enabled low-threshold detection of DNA from latent neuropathogenic strains of EHV-1 in MLN specimens from live horses. The technique may be used to screen horses for latent neuropathogenic EHV-1 infection.
OBJECTIVE To determine whether prophylactic administration of valacyclovir hydrochloride versus initiation of treatment at the onset of fever would differentially protect horses from viral replication and clinical disease attributable to equine herpesvirus type-1 (EHV-1) infection.
ANIMALS 18 aged mares.
PROCEDURES Horses were randomly assigned to receive an oral placebo (control), treatment at detection of fever, or prophylactic treatment (initiated 1 day prior to viral challenge) and then inoculated intranasally with a neuropathogenic strain of EHV-1. Placebo or valacyclovir was administered orally for 7 or 14 days after EHV-1 inoculation or detection of fever (3 horses/group). Effects of treatment on viral replication and clinical disease were evaluated. Plasma acyclovir concentrations and viremia were assessed to determine inhibitory concentrations of valacyclovir.
RESULTS Valacyclovir administration decreased shedding of virus and viremia, compared with findings for control horses. Rectal temperatures and clinical disease scores in horses that received valacyclovir prophylactically for 2 weeks were lower than those in control horses. The severity of but not the risk for ataxia was decreased by valacyclovir administration. Viremia was decreased when steady-state trough plasma acyclovir concentrations were > 0.8 μg/mL, supporting the time-dependent activity of acyclovir.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE Valacyclovir treatment significantly decreased viral replication and signs of disease in EHV-1–infected horses; effects were greatest when treatment was initiated before viral inoculation, but treatment was also effective when initiated as late as 2 days after inoculation. During an outbreak of equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy, antiviral treatment may be initiated in horses at various stages of infection, including horses that have not yet developed signs of viral disease.