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Genie in the LAMP: Rapid Diagnostics Help Protect Horses from Disease Threats

Image created by Dr. Michael J. Miller

Scientists believe important strides can be made in protecting horses from disease threats, amid growing national and international equine movements, by further developing LAMP technology.

LAMP stands for loop-mediated isothermal amplification. It is a nucleic acid amplification method capable of offering rapid and accurate diagnosis of infectious diseases.

Researchers Alexandra Knox, Gemma Zerna and Travis Beddoe, in a review published in the journal Animals, looked at equine bacterial diseases that pose biosecurity risks and their current diagnostic approaches. For each disease, they looked at developments in terms of LAMP testing.

The trio, with the Department of Animal, Plant and Soil Sciences, part of the Centre for AgriBioscience at La Trobe University in Australia, said the equine industry is an enduring and essential entity worldwide.

It plays a crucial role in many cultures and communities by serving as a source of employment, entertainment, and companionship. It also provides substantial global economic value, estimated at $US300 billion annually.

The authors said the movement and trade of horses have rapidly increased worldwide in recent decades, which has created more opportunities for importation and exposure to diseases. This growth in horse movements has applied pressure on current biosecurity management practices.

“Whilst these measures throughout countries are diligent and ever-adapting to new situations, there remains an apparent urgency for improved surveillance techniques to prevent detrimental disease outbreaks,” they said.

“For a vast number of bacterial diseases of concern, current diagnostics and surveillance methodology rely on out-of-date technology or are time-consuming, with a lengthy turnaround of results.

“In addition to international movement and trade, surveillance at equine events and on farms should remain vigilant; this requires accessible technology that can be utilized in a range of environments, including resource-poor communities.

“Therefore, continuous and rigorous monitoring and detection methods should be of the utmost importance for equine research.”

They said that while attention is largely focused on controlling viral pathogens, bacterial diseases pose similar damaging outcomes.

Many highly contagious bacterial diseases can be transmitted easily from direct contact between horses or indirect contact with contaminated objects, they said.

“Despite extensive biosecurity laws for the importation and exportation of horses worldwide, bacterial outbreaks continue to frequently occur.” Some, they said, are devastating.

“To prevent such events, disease surveillance and diagnosis must be heightened throughout the industry.”

However, current common, or “gold-standard” techniques, have been shown to be inadequate at times. At times, they do not serve the wider community due to the inaccessibility of expensive machinery.

“Additionally, the vast majority of current gold-standard detection methods are time-consuming and do not allow for immediate action in cases of outbreaks.”

Thus, newer technologies are required to impede outbreaks.

“LAMP has proven to be a sound molecular technique that overcomes most pitfalls associated with other nucleic acid amplification techniques,” they said.

Further research into improving LAMP tests has shown promising results that can strengthen this method beyond current capabilities. These include the potential use of additives that have been trialed with other nucleic acid amplification techniques. Additives can increase analytical sensitivity and test stability.

However, as studies for enhancing these tests in equine medicine are limited, the review team strongly recommends further investigations on additive effects for disease detection and surveillance, as it is clear that additive improvements are test-specific.

Furthermore, the use of simple field-deployable amplification and detection techniques has the potential to revolutionize LAMP technology.

“There is an apparent need for rapid results for the implementation of control measures to prevent detrimental spread and outbreaks throughout the equine industry, and thus, it is suggested that the development of LAMP methodologies should be a focal point of research in equine medicine.”

The authors said the robust nature and ease of use of LAMP, coupled with continuous advancements, gives little doubt as to why this technology is being rapidly developed in research for equine disease diagnosis and surveillance.

“Yet, despite numerous assays being designed and optimized for equine bacterial diseases of biosecurity importance, LAMP has failed to replace gold-standard techniques thus far.

“This could derive from a gap in communication between researchers and those who perform diagnostic procedures.”

More advocating regarding the advantages of LAMP, such as the cost and time of such tests, could help overcome this.

“Furthermore, as LAMP is designed to have simplistic and flexible methodologies, thus not requiring trained personnel, there should be more endorsement for those who directly work with horses every day, for example, farmers and stud owners, to self-manage surveillance using these assays (tests).”

Eventually, by using a simple field-deployable “lab-on-a-chip” or microfluidic device, horse owners could potentially be able to perform testing themselves.

“Whilst it is evident that LAMP could become a breakthrough technique for the equine industry, continuous development and optimization do need to occur,” they said.

Additionally, bridging the gap of communication between researchers and diagnosticians regarding LAMP test implementation is essential to advance current diagnostic and surveillance techniques, and continue to protect the equine industry.


Knox, A.; Zerna, G.; Beddoe, T. Current and Future Advances in the Detection and Surveillance of Biosecurity-Relevant Equine Bacterial Diseases Using Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP). Animals 2023, 13, 2663. 


  1. Isothermal amplification are suitable for Poct and have the potential to transform diagnostics.

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