Coronavirus in Adult Horses: Diarrhea Possible

While most veterinarians know that equine coronavirus can be found as a co-infection in many foals with diarrhea, test results from IDEXX Laboratories and other sources show that coronavirus needs to be recognized as a potential pathogen in adult horse diarrhea.

IDEXX laboratories shared with EquiManagement the results of its equine “diarrhea panel” (a group of real-time PCR tests of diarrhea-causing pathogens) to help veterinarians understand the risk that this virus poses for adult horses. Information from the IDEXX tests and/or data from UC Davis have been presented at several AAEP Conventions and the International Equine Infectious Diseases Conference. Information on coronavirus was also published in Veterinary Microbiology (2013 by Dr. Nicola Pusterla, et al.) and Equine Veterinary Journal (2013 by Drs. Nathan Slovis, Christian Leutenegger, et al.). For complete references, see below.

According to Christian M. Leutenegger, Dr.Med.Vet, PhD, FVH, head of the PCR Division for IDEXX Laboratories, there is a longstanding finding of coronavirus in foals, but with test results from the past few years, there is a definitive problem with diarrheal cases and outbreaks caused by coronavirus in adult horses.

Sequencing of the coronavirus genome in 2007 at the University of Kentucky allowed Leutenegger to develop a real-time PCR test that was included in the IDEXX diarrhea panel in 2008. That panel has been one of the fastest-growing products in the IDEXX portfolio, which means when veterinarians have requested tests on horses with diarrhea, coronavirus was being looked for along with more commonly recognized pathogens.

Test results have shown that coronavirus is accelerating as a causative pathogen for diarrhea cases and outbreaks, specifically in adult horses. The cases seem more prevalent in the first half of each year.

Of the positive real-time PRC tests for equine coronavirus since 2010, IDEXX has found that 57% were in horses 5 years of age or older. They found 16% of the positive tests were in horses 6-60 months of age and 27% were in horses less than six months of age.

For medical questions about coronavirus, contact Dr. Ron Vin through the IDEXX Internal Medicine Consulting line at 888-433-9987 x 4 x 3. For Real- PCR technical questions, contact Dr. Leutenegger at 916-267-2454. —Kimberly S. Brown

This map shows information from IDEXX Laboratories diarrhea panel testing from 2010 to March 28, 2014. 


N. Pusterla, S. Mapes, C. Wademana, A. White, R. Ball K. Sapp, P. Burns, C. Ormond, K. Butterworth , J. Bartol K.G. Magdesian. Emerging outbreaks associated with equine coronavirus in adult horses. Veterinary Microbiology 162 (2013) 228–231 Slovis, N.M.; Elam, J.; Estrada, M.; Leutenegger, C.M. Infectious agents associated with diarrhoea in neonatal foals in Central Kentucky: A comprehensive molecular study. Equine Vet J. 2013 Jun 17.

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