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New test can diagnose emerging strains of canine parvovirus

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- A new test developed at the Kansas State University Diagnostic Laboratory is leading to earlier detection of a severe --- and potentially fatal -- virus that affects dogs, especially puppies.

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious worldwide disease that involves both domestic and wild canines. It can be fatal in immunocompromised dogs or puppies that have not yet been vaccinated, said Richard Oberst, professor of diagnostic medicine and director of the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory in the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

The molecular diagnostics team has developed a newer, more effective test that can detect an emerging 2c strain of the virus while simultaneously detecting existing 2a and 2b strains.

"Canine parvovirus is a very severe disease," Oberst said. "Usually dogs who have canine parvovirus are already immune suppressed, not only because of their young age and having immature immune systems, but also because of having intestinal parasites."

Canine parvovirus causes hemorrhagic enteritis resulting in bloody diarrhea several days after exposure to the virus. It spreads from dog to dog through contact with feces. The virus infects lymphocytes and causes immune suppression, Oberst said, but it also can cause dogs to bleed to death through their intestines.

A major worldwide parvovirus outbreak occurred in the 1970s and involved a pathogenic form of the virus that killed many dogs. Since the 1970s, the virus has evolved into the type 2a and type 2b strains found around the world, Oberst said. A type 2c has recently emerged, too.

"While parvovirus doesn't seem to be causing quite the same widespread outbreaks that we saw in the 1970s, a lot of dogs are still infected and coming down with the disease," Oberst said.

Often, survival rates depend on how quickly and accurately the virus is detected. Commercial tests for veterinarians are not as effective at detecti

Contact: Richard Oberst
Kansas State University

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