Equine Multinodular Pulmonary Fibrosis: Researchers Identify a New Equine Pulmonary Disease


Kurt Williams DVM, PhD, Dipl ACVP of Michigan State University

Collaborating veterinarians in Ohio, Georgia and Iowa, working with researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Michigan State University have identified a new equine respiratory ailment that is similar clinically to heaves, but is far more serious.

The newly identified lesion has been named “equine multinodular pulmonary fibrosis.” Dr. Kurt Williams, assistant professor in the Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation, saw his first case of what became this newly identified fibrosis a few years ago.

“I looked at the pathology and I was pretty perplexed at what it was,” he said. “It is progressive and horses with it have a poor prognosis, though they generally do not die.”

More cases came from Dr. Cindy Jackson, formerly of MSU, and other sources. “It was pure serendipity to identify the viral connection,” Williams says. Working with Dr. Steve Bolin and Dr. Roger Maes at MSU’s Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health, he added, “we determined it was an equine gamma herpes, and it was linked to equine herpes virus-5,” a common virus that had not formerly been considered disease-causing.

Williams began collaborating with Dr. Pam Wilkins, Chief of the Section of Emergency/Critical Care and Anesthesia and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She had run across several cases. “She is working on characterizing the clinical presentation of these animals; I identified the disease and pointed out the virus,” Williams said.

“From a veterinary medical standpoint,” Williams says, “it’s very important. (This research) opens up the possibility of therapeutically intervening and maybe preventing this disease. Long term, that’s where we’d like to go with this.”

Thanks to Michigan State University for source material used in this post.

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