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Equine drug testing, straight from the horse's mane

LGC : 27 October, 2000  (Company News)
University Diagnostics Ltd, known for its pioneering horse identification service GENEQ, has launched a new drug testing service that can detect a horse's exposure to drugs from a simple hair sample. This is the first time such testing has been made available to the general public in the UK.
UDL only needs a hair sample from the mane or tail in order to identify a range of drugs and the new service will start by offering detection of phenylbutazone (commonly known as Bute) which can be used to mask injury. Test results can be turned around in as little as five working days, and the total cost is not expected to exceed £40.

Only 10 strands of hair from the tail, forelock, but preferably the mane, are needed, pulled in exactly the same way as required for thinning manes. Key advantages of this new drug testing service include:

Non-invasive sample collection method – just a few hairs required.
No vet required – keeps costs down.
Easy to post – no special arrangements required.
No special equipment needed for collection of sample.
Accurate and performed to recognised forensic standards.
Goes back one month (blood tests can only detect back 2-3 days) but detects within 30 minutes of drug administration
Same sample can also be used for DNA identity and paternity testing.
This latest service offering builds on UDL's successful DNA profiling service, GENEQ (used for determining equine identity and paternity) that uses the intact roots of the hair as the source of the DNA and provides the very high degree of accuracy associated with DNA testing.

Dr Paul Debenham, Managing Director UDL, said: 'We recognised that there are strong concerns in the market about the misuse of substances such as Bute to mask injuries when an animal is sold. With more than 15000 horses being traded every month in the UK, there was an obvious need for fast, inexpensive and accurate testing of this type. Though there hasn´t been a UK-specific report as yet, in 1999 the American Show Horse Association tested a number of competition animals (512 in total) from across the country: of the 76 that failed a drug test, 15 were found to have significant levels of Bute.'
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