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New Tool Allows Diagnosis of Encephalitis in Sheep and Goats

10 August 2016

SPAIN - Biologist Idoia Glaria-Ezquer has developed a diagnostic tool specifically for detecting encephalitis caused by small-ruminant lentiviruses in sheep and goats, during her PhD thesis read at the Public University of Navarre.

The test could enable the spread of highly pathogenic lineages affecting flocks to be controlled. The disease leads to economic losses and there is no treatment or vaccine to combat it.

In the absence of treatments or fully protective vaccines, "Measures to control the infection are based on the early detection of infected animals so that they can be removed from the flock.

"The specimens infected develop an antibody response which, even if it is not capable of eliminating the virus, does point to infection," explained Ms Glaria.

So by studying the presence of antibodies in the blood (serological detection), the infection can be diagnosed indirectly. However, Ms Garia said: "The methods available on the market have been designed taking a single viral genotype into consideration, when five of them exist, which, added to the great genetic variability of lentiviruses, causes the available measures to fail when it comes to monitoring all the viruses going around flocks."

The researcher designed a synthetic molecule that she used to develop a laboratory technique capable of detecting the animals affected by the encephalitis outbreak. "It is a specific diagnostic tool of epidemiological interest to control the spread of these highly pathogenic lineages," she explained.

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