Horse genital cancer virus identified

5 January 2011

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Category: Research & medical benefits

horses.jpgScientists have discovered a virus linked to genital cancer in horses. The finding could lead to a vaccination that prevents the disease, similar to that used against human cervical cancer.

Genital cancer in horses affects both sexes, is difficult to treat and often results in the horse's death.

Cervical cancer in humans is caused by a type of virus called papillomavirus. As horse genital cancers are similar to human genital cancers, researchers thought horse genital cancer may also be caused by a papillomavirus.

Researchers looked for papillomavirus DNA in tissue samples from horses with genital cancer. They found a new type of papillomavirus which they have called Equus caballus papillomavirus-2, or EcPV-2 for short.

EcPV-2 was found in all but one of the horses with genital cancer sampled. The virus has not been found in samples from horses without genital cancer, or in horses with other types of cancer.

When researchers sequenced the genome of EcPV-2. they found the virus to be closely related to the viruses that cause genital cancer in humans.

The problem of cervical cancer in humans has been significantly reduced by the recent introduction of a vaccine. The findings may lead to the development of a similar vaccine to protect horses against EcPV-2.

Read more about cancer in animals here.

See also our page on the cervical cancer vaccine.