Could Bovine, Porcine Rotavirus Affect Horses?

Genomic research suggests that horses could also be susceptible to rotavirus from both cows and pigs.

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We know that rotavirus—which causes severe diarrhea in foals—is a highly contagious virus that can spread rapidly through your foaling barn. But results of new genomic research from Asian scientists suggests that horses are also susceptible to rotavirus from both cows and pigs.

“Our study, based on whole genomic analysis, has provided the first conclusive evidence that bovine and porcine rotavirus can be transmitted to horses,” said Souvik Ghosh, BVSc, AH, MVSc, PhD, lecturer in the department of hygiene at Sapporo Medical University School of Medicine in Japan.

Rotavirus is made up of 11 gene segments that can “reassert,” meaning they can blend with other rotavirus strains to create a new, mixed strain, Ghosh said. For example, previous study results have shown that a rotavirus from cattle could mix with a rotavirus from a horse to create a new rotavirus strain that has nine bovine gene segments and two equine segments.

However, Ghosh’s study is the first to show that horses can be infected with rotavirus strains in which all 11 gene segments are bovinelike, meaning they are 100% bovine rotavirus strains. In other words, the disease can no longer be considered species-specific

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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