• Horsey;
  • Pathogen detection;
  • TaqMan polymerase chain reaction

The focus of rapid diagnosis of infectious disease of horses in the last decade has shifted from the conventional laboratory techniques of antigen detection, microscopy, and culture to molecular diagnosis of infectious agents. Equine practitioners must be able to interpret the use, limitations, and results of molecular diagnostic techniques, as they are increasingly integrated into routine microbiology laboratory protocols. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the best-known and most successfully implemented diagnostic molecular technology to date. It can detect slow-growing, difficult-to-cultivate, or uncultivatable microorganisms and can be used in situations in which clinical microbiology diagnostic procedures are inadequate, time-consuming, difficult, expensive, or hazardous to laboratory staff. Inherent technical limitations of PCR are present, but they are reduced in laboratories that use standardized protocols, conduct rigid validation protocols, and adhere to appropriate quality-control procedures. Improvements in PCR, especially probe-based real-time PCR, have broadened its diagnostic capabilities in clinical infectious diseases to complement and even surpass traditional methods in some situations. Furthermore, real-time PCR is capable of quantitation, allowing discrimination of clinically relevant infections characterized by pathogen replication and high pathogen loads from chronic latent infections. Automation of all components of PCR is now possible, which will decrease the risk of generating false-positive results due to contamination. The novel real-time PCR strategy and clinical applications in equine infectious diseases will be the subject of this review.