Author: Novarum DX
An outbreak of equine flu shutdown the UK horse racing industry recently, as veterinarians struggled to perform large volumes of nasal swab tests, and expedite samples to laboratories, preventing further postponement of high profile races. The industry, which is estimated to be worth £3.5bn to the UK economy¹, supports tertiary sectors such as transportation, catering, the media and gambling – all of which experienced financial loss in the past week.
Horse ownership brings with it a long to-do list and whether you are an amateur hobbyist with a couple of animals, or a trainer who manages professional stables, the burden of responsibility is endless.
Ensuring your horse is healthy and in prime condition is every responsible owner’s aim, but there are a number of factors which make equine care particularly challenging, including remote locations and costly veterinary treatment.
Treating horses is particularly expensive because of their size and the specialist care they often require – conditions like Colic, which might seem minor at first, can very quickly escalate and develop into life-threatening illnesses that are also expensive to treat.
With many stables based on farms, or in remote, rural areas, location can pose a problem if animals fall ill and need urgent care. This can also mean higher vet bills and longer response times as vets often have to travel far to reach stables.
However, advances in point of care testing, which are already benefiting human healthcare, could have significant implications for these equine health challenges and hold the potential to transform horse husbandry, improving how we approach stable care and diagnostics.
Rapid tests are increasingly common in identifying human ailments and have created a step-change in how we make a diagnosis. Novarum DX has developed image-capture technology which transforms a smartphone into a diagnostic reader to deliver accurate test results, of lab-quality, directly from the point of care, but with the same simplicity as scanning a QR code.
This pioneering technology can be used by anyone, anywhere, with minimal end-user training, connecting patients and doctors, field-workers, lab-researchers and primary care clinicians to specialist practices, as part of a mobile ecosystem.
Smartphone readers are tearing up the diagnostic’s rule book, and while this kind of technology hasn’t yet become common within equine care, its potential to vastly improve diagnostics with animal health is clear. Technology is a huge enabler – providing stable managers or those with responsibility for an animals’ health and well-being with a vital tool that is able to rapidly provide lab-quality results, stable-side.
The principle of preventive care is at the heart of good equine husbandry and is based upon problem prevention rather than problem treatment. Diagnosis is key to this approach and recording an accurate and swift test result is fundamental in ensuring the right course of treatment is followed.
This approach would empower stable managers and prevent them calling out veterinary practitioners the moment they suspect a horse is unwell – or worse, waiting until it is too late, because they weren’t sure whether their horse’s condition was serious.
Novarum smartphone readers enable tests to be performed in challenging locations where access to healthcare is often remote. The technology also empowers patients to diagnose and monitor chronic conditions from the comfort of their own home.
This approach has delivered outstanding results in remote, hard-to-reach communities, and offers the same valuable applications in animal health.
Utilising the power of mobile technology makes these rapid point of care tests user-friendly and users can swiftly become confident practitioners, with minimal training. This would be hugely helpful for stable managers, who would become empowered by the technology to undertake regular health monitoring and diagnose conditions.
For stables based in remote parts of the countryside, which could take the vet hours to reach, this has particular benefits; it would prevent vets making unnecessary journeys but also enables stable teams to isolate animals quickly, following an infectious disease outbreak.
With fast-moving conditions like Colic – having access to a rapid and accurate diagnostic tool, which can assess the animal’s condition and provide a response within minutes, could be the difference between life and death. Whilst increasingly, vets are looking at monitoring biomarkers such as Serum Amyloid A, as an indicator of inflammatory infection, and to monitor recovery after treatment. Simple point of care style tests exist, but would be enhanced by combination with reading, recording and recommended actions using an app interface.
As med-tech evolves and becomes more widespread, the benefits of the technology are being felt in myriad sectors, and for valuable thoroughbreds, and much-loved nags alike – remote diagnostic technology has the potential to deliver widespread changes and improve how animals are treated from the point of care.
We hope you enjoyed our blog, which represents the views of the author and not the organisation. For more information about the capabilities of smartphone diagnostic readers within equine care, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
¹ BBC News Online (2019). Equine flu: what is the cost to horse racing? [online] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47169299 (accessed 13/02/19).