A Virus Might Help Horse Wounds Heal

Specific proteins from the ‘orf’ virus could help improve wound healing, scientists found, but more research is needed.
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A Virus Might Help Horse Wounds Heal
Specific proteins from the orf virus could help improve healing. | Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse
Your horse just found the only loose fence board in his pasture. Of course, he ripped it off the fence, cutting open his leg in the process. Being a horse owner, you’re well-acquainted with how long it takes skin to heal and how difficult it is to keep it clean and safe from infection. After all, you wouldn’t want to expose it to any viruses, right?

Well, maybe. A group of researchers from Canada and New Zealand have recently learned that a “secret agent” to enhance healing might exist in the most unlikely of places—a virus. Specifically, the “orf” virus, a parapoxvirus that causes a highly contagious skin disease in ungulates (hoofed animals) and humans.

It might sound like mad science, but the concept is perfectly safe and very promising, said Christine Theoret, PhD, DMV, Dipl. ACVS, director of the Comparative Veterinary Tissue Healing Laboratory in the Department of Veterinary Biomedicine at the University of Montreal, in Quebec, Canada.

But before you go looking for ways to smear viruses directly into your four-legged’s leg wounds, hold your horses! It’s important to note that the researchers didn’t apply the virus itself to the wounds, but rather specific proteins from the orf virus. And equally important, they still kept the wounds as clean and protected from infection as possible

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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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