The South African equine industry received news of a small, but important victory in our quest to conquering our horse export protocols.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has officially validated the Guthrie real time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT- PCR) technique for certification of individual animals for African horse sickness (AHS) prior to movement.
The test, developed by Professor Alan Guthrie and colleagues at the Faculty of Veterinary Science’s Equine Research Centre (ERC), University of Pretoria, has greatly improved the laboratory diagnosis of AHS by increasing the sensitivity of detection and shortening the time required for the diagnosis.
Does this translate into immediate direct export of horses from South Africa to multiple countries? No, it doesn’t – trade protocols need to be negotiated between competent authorities of importing and exporting countries – BUT as diagnostic testing is the cornerstone of international trade, the importance of an OIE validated test for AHS, specifically for certification of individual animals prior to movement, cannot be overstated.
Prof Ian Sanne of the Wits Health Consortium Equine Health Fund commented, “This is an incredible achievement from a local research facility with minimal financial support. AHS has affected South African horse exports since the 1960s and key stakeholders in the industry have been working to find long term solutions to these challenges. This test will support the safe, direct exports of horses from South Africa.”
About the OIE
The Office International des Epizooties (OIE) was created to fight animal diseases at global level on 25th January 1924. In May 2003, the Office became the World Organisation for Animal Health but kept its historical acronym, OIE. Delegates designated by the governments of all member countries (181 member countries in 2017) meet in Paris at the General Session towards the end of May each year where the World Assembly of Delegates, the highest authority of the OIE, vote on the adoption of international standards in the field of animal health, especially for international trade. The Guthrie AHS RT-PCR test method is now included in the relevant chapter in the OIE Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines.