With a rapid test used to detect rotavirus in humans, veterinarians could diagnose rotavirus in foals more accurately and quickly and, thus, begin crucial treatment sooner. Researchers in Japan recently published a study comparing seven rapid antigen detection kits for diagnosing rotavirus infection in foals, and the Dipstick test commonly used in human medicine came out on top.

Rotavirus, a highly contagious virus that causes diarrhea, is commonly found in foals up to three months old. According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, it can affect up to 50% of susceptible foals, generally those in the neonatal, perinatal, and suckling stages of their lives.

Current diagnostic tests for rotavirus utilize serologic tests, electron microscopy, and molecular genetics. Due to the expensive equipment and extensive training required to perform these diagnostics, veterinarians must send samples to a laboratory, and results might not be available for days. One field test had been developed, but some veterinarians felt the results it yielded were not as accurate as those produced in a laboratory.

"In the past, a latex agglutination assay was [the] only [test] used as a rapid diagnostic method in the field, but we felt that this assay was less sensitive," said Manabu Nemoto, DVM, lead author and a researcher at the Epizootic Research Center. "Now, several rapid antigen detection kits are commercially available."

Researchers at the Epizootic Research Center of the Equine Research Institute of the Japan Racing Association (ERIJRA) and the Mitsuishi Animal Clinic Center of the Hidaka Agriculture Mutual Aid Association used 249 fecal samples from Thoroughbred foals with diarrhea to investigate the seven tests. Nemoto and colleagues determined that the Dipstick rapid antigen detection kits used to diagnose rotavirus in humans were most useful, having the highest sensitivity to two strains of equine rotavirus.

Nemoto and his colleagues found that the Dipstick test yielded comparable results to both the RT-PCR and RT-LAMP, two of the current laboratory tests used to detect the virus.

The Dipstick test can be performed in the field or in a practice setting and the result can be obtained within 15 minutes, Nemoto noted. With these quick results, "veterinarians can take speedy and appropriate treatment against rotavirus infection," he said.

The full article was published in the September 2010 issue of the Journal of Veterinary Medical Science. The abstract is available on PubMed.

Further Reading: Rotavirus in Foals