Farm Ireland

Sunday 25 February 2018

Centre has a global reputation for its pathology research

In 2014 the Irish Equine Centre's head of pathology, Dr Ursula Fogarty, dealt with one of the biggest cases of fatality in the industry when over 200 horses and ponies died from an countrywide outbreak of Atypical Myopathy (ATM).

It had been caused by horses ingesting hypoglycin which had been found in the seeds of Acer trees such as the sycamore.

"In hindsight, however, I believe a lot more than 200 died as there were many more cases that we did not hear about," Dr Fogarty said.

Fortunately this year's weather has been in favour of the equestrian industry and, to date, there have been no reported cases in Ireland.

A veterinary graduate of UCD, Dr Fogarty joined the team in 1985, and two years later was appointed assistant pathologist to Dr Brendan Farrelly.

She took over the unit three years later.

"I was originally researching and developing the lung wash technique (Bronchoalveolar lavage) in calves and I came down here to try to adapt it to horses," said Dr Fogarty.

During the procedure a bronchoscope is passed through the mouth or nose into the lungs and fluid is squirted into a small part of the lung.

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The fluid is then collected for examination.

While lung washes are regularly carried out by the team, post-mortems in horses and ponies, and aborted foals, are the bulk of the work.

They also cater for a large number of small animals which are sent directly by veterinary surgeons.

The examination of tissues (histopathology) is carried out in conjunction with the veterinary college at UCD, while the Irish Equine Centre also works closely with the Department of Agriculture in the testing of badgers to eradicate Bovine Tuberculosis (TB).


"Lately we have also begun looking at the affect of over re-seeding of paddocks where there are horses as we have found that fertilisers are locking up the minerals in the soil and interfering with the soil flora, and in turn the gut flora."

During the year the unit participates in research and education programmes on a national and international stage, including the development of new diagnostic techniques in the areas of reproduction and foal disease.

The unit also plays a role in the investigation and registration of pharmaceutical products.

The clinical pathology unit is recognised worldwide for the quality of its research.

Funding for important research projects has in the past been provided by, amongst others, the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the International League for the Protection of Horses, the International Equestrian Federation and the Lloyds Charitable Trust.

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