Equine Herpesvirus Study at
Colorado State University Works to
Unravel how Virus
Unlocks Immune System "Gate"
FORT COLLINS - A Colorado
State University study will look at how equine herpesvirus type 1 may compromise
the immune system immediately upon entering the “gate” of a horse’s
respiratory system – the airway and throat – allowing it to spread through
the body and potentially cause neurological damage, abortion and possibly death.
study specifically concentrates on the lining of the respiratory systems, called
the epithelium, which keeps the airway moist and is a barrier to pathogens. The
epithelial cells also serve a critical function in shaping the immunological
response, including secreting chemicals to attack pathogens and determining and
initiating the cascade of immune responses in the rest of the body.
believe that the herpesvirus finds a way to ‘hide’ from the immune response,
and we also know that if an immune system doesn’t trigger a good response at
the first sign of infection, viruses like this one take off,” said Gabrielle
Landolt, a CSU veterinarian and a co-lead researcher on the project. "That
combination of events may take place in the horse’s respiratory system, and if
we can crack the equine herpesevirus secret to getting through that gateway and
compromising the immune system at that point of entry, we may be better able to
find treatments and preventative measures to stop outbreaks of the virus.”
outcome of this research will also help scientists understand how herpes viruses
in all species may impact immune systems,” said Gisela Hussey, also a
veterinarian at CSU, who is leading the project. “This study is innovative
because it is the first study to focus on defining the immune responses at the
respiratory epithelium and how the virus controls the immune system.”
herpesevirus-1 is spread through nose-to-nose contact and through close contact
with contaminated equipment, clothing and water and feed. The pathogen also may
spread for a limited distance through the air. There are several types of equine
herpesevirus, and there also are herpes strains that impact virtually every
species. However, the virus does not jump from species to species.
researchers are conducting the study on actual equine epithelium cells from
deceased horses whose owners have volunteered the tissue for the research. The
use of these cells in a model that mimics the actual response in a living horse
also is novel in this research area.
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