A diagnostic test, able to identify a deadly virus believed to be present in up to 10 percent of horses, is now available for the first time for horses.

New Equine Virus (NEV) was first identified in 2013 by Isabel Fidalgo Carvalho.

Dr Carvalho went on to found Portugal-based equine biotech firm Equigerminal to develop an accurate and commercially viable NEV diagnostic test that can be used by vets, vet labs and horse owners.

After many years of research and testing, the diagnostic test is now launching to the equine community.

NEV - the equine equivalent of HIV - is often misdiagnosed or hidden by other diseases that induce similar symptoms, like anaemia and neurological issues in horses. It is most commonly confused with the Swamp Fever virus (EIAV) and Equine Herpesviruses (EHV).

Horses thought to have the highly-contagious Swamp Fever can be ordered to be culled by officials in an attempt to stop its spread - a tragedy for the horses, and highly distressing and costly for owners.

By testing a number of horses with anaemia, Equigerminal researchers first believed they had found the presence of a divergent strain of the Swamp Fever Virus (EIAV) - because the horses cross reacted with EIAV, but were negative in the official tests. But subsequent research found they were actually suffering from NEV.

NEV can lead to severe neurological diseases and may prove fatal.

The test enables a vet to take the horse’s blood, send it to the lab where it is tested and then results are returned to the owner/vet.

Once the horse has been tested the appropriate treatment can be given and the spread of the disease prevented. Treatment is currently targeted towards improving the general well-being of the horse, health monitoring, and boosting the animal’s immune system. The next stage is to find a treatment and, ideally, a cure for NEV.