Detection of EHV-1 and EHV-4 DNA in unweaned Thoroughbred foals from vaccinated mares on a large stud farm


Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney 2109


Reasons for performing study: A silent cycle of equine herpesvirus 1 infection has been described following epidemiological studies in unvaccinated mares and foals. In 1997, an inactivated whole virus EHV-1 and EHV-4 vaccine was released commercially in Australia and used on many stud farms. However, it was not known what effect vaccination might have on the cycle of infection of EHV-1.

Objective: To investigate whether EHV-1 and EHV-4 could be detected in young foals from vaccinated mares.

Methods: Nasal and blood samples were tested by PCR and ELISA after collection from 237 unvaccinated, unweaned foals and vaccinated and nonvaccinated mares during the breeding season of 2000.

Results: EHV-1 and EHV-4 DNA was detected in nasal swab samples from foals as young as age 11 days.

Conclusions: These results confirm that EHV-1 and EHV-4 circulate in vaccinated populations of mares and their unweaned, unvaccinated foals.

Potential relevance: The evidence that the cycle of EHV-1 and EHV-4 infection is continuing and that very young foals are becoming infected should assist stud farms in their management of the threat posed by these viruses.