Evaluating Joint Infections Using SAA Levels (AAEP 2012)

Researchers evaluated a new method that could help vets monitor joint infections’ response to treatment.

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Joint infections are a serious occurrence in horses with the potential to end an athletic career or even a life. Although survival rates are as high as 62% in foals and 85% in adults, only 48-66% of horses return to previous athletic activity after a joint infection.

“A successful outcome requires early and aggressive treatment, including the intra-articular injection of a suitable antibiotic such as amikacin,” said Andres Sanchez Teran, Vet MSc, of the University of Pretoria’s Department of Companion Animal Clinical Studies, in South Africa (though he’s currently at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Canada). Since there’s no reliable way to determine if treatment is working, Sanchez Teran and his colleagues in Pretoria set out to find one, and he presented the results during the 2012 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Convention, held Dec 1-5 in Anaheim, Calif.

This inability to monitor joint infections negatively impacts a horse’s chance for survival or function. Scientists know that cells lining the inside of the joint produce a protein called serum amyloid A (SAA), and SAA levels increase in cases of infection. More importantly, SAA levels in synovial (joint) fluid do not increase following routine joint injections the way total protein and total nucleated cell counts (NCCs) do.

“This means that SAA could be a better marker of joint infection (than total protein and other cell counts that are currently used),” explained Sanchez Teran

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Written by:

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she’s worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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