'Not a week goes by that I do not receive a phone call about Strangles from a concerned owner'
Up to 5,000 blood samples from horses will be tested for diseases at the Irish Equine Centre during the course of the thoroughbred breeding season which kicks off in the coming weeks.
Headed by Professor Tom Buckley since 1987, the microbiology unit is one of the most advanced of its kind in Europe and can accommodate anything up to 30,000 samples each year.
"Naturally the breeding season is a busy time for us," Buckley said, "but in fact we are busy all year-round as we also cater for sport horses, including eventers and show jumpers, as well as harness racing." Goffs Sales is also a major client.
Blood samples taken from a large number of horses each year are routinely tested for banned substances, while Prof Buckley's team also specialise in testing for diseases such as Strangles, Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA), Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA) and Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM).
A transmissible, exotic, venereal disease which affects thoroughbreds more severely than half-breds, CEM was last detected in Ireland 2012.
Equine infectious anaemia (EIA) or swamp fever is caused by a lentivirus related to human immunodeficiency virus which causes AIDs in people. No cases of EIA have been detected in Ireland since 2006, however, the disease remains a problem in some EU member states and sporadic incursions have been reported in the UK.
EVA can cause reduced fertility to severe disease with abortion in pregnant mares and death of young foals. While exotic to Ireland there have been the occasional incursions from countries where it is endemic.
Strangles, however, continues to be endemic in Ireland, says Prof Buckley: "Not a week goes by that I do not receive a phone call from a concerned owner."