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Evaluation of equine coronavirus fecal shedding among hospitalized horses



Currently, diagnosis of equine coronavirus (ECoV) relies on the exclusion of other infectious causes of enteric disease along with molecular detection of ECoV in feces or tissue. Although this approach is complete, it is costly and may not always be achievable.


We hypothesized that the overall fecal shedding of ECoV in hospitalized horses is low. Our objective was to determine whether systemically healthy horses and horses with gastrointestinal disorders shed ECoV in their feces at the time of admission to a referral hospital and after 48 hours of stress associated with hospitalization.


One-hundred thirty adult horses admitted to the Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital for gastrointestinal disease (n = 65) or for imaging under anesthesia (n = 65) that were hospitalized for 48 hours. Owner consent was obtained before sampling.


Fecal samples were collected at admission and 48 hours later. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for ECoV and electron microscopy (EM) were performed on all samples.


Only 1 of 258 fecal samples was PCR-positive for ECoV. Electron microscopy identified ECoV-like particles in 9 of 258 samples, parvovirus-like particles in 4 of 258 samples, and rotavirus-like particles in 1 of 258 samples.

Conclusions and clinical importance

The presence of ECoV in feces of hospitalized adult horses was low. Thus, fecal samples that are PCR-positive for ECoV in adult horses that have clinical signs consistent with this viral infection are likely to be of diagnostic relevance. The clinical relevance of the viruses observed using EM remains to be investigated.

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