Last Friday, the research collaboration between the Animal Health
Trust and the University of Liverpool, Leahurst announced the
breakthrough they have made in investigating the ‘syndrome’. They have
identified the site of the genetic defect that brings about the fatal
syndrome in fell and dales foals and as a result, from February 1st
2010, a test will be available to look for carrier and affected
ponies. It is very exciting to be able to write this, it has been a
long and painful process getting this far.
The researchers made a point of thanking all those who continued to
submit foals for testing, knowing how hard this has been for you.
There are many details yet to be finalised but the commitment is there
to run this test from Newmarket, and to supply you with your results
in the strictest confidence. This can be seen as a major contribution
to the welfare of these ponies as there is now no need to wait for the
health of a suspect foal to worsen before being convinced of the
diagnosis. The other welfare benefit will come from the changes in
breeding strategies leading to fewer syndrome foals being born.
Our congratulations go to all of those involved in the research, but
especially to Laura Fox-Clipsham who dedicated so much of her time and
effort to making the journey up to Cumbria at short notice and so
frequently during the breeding season.
The fell breeders will also be relieved that the name of the syndrome
is to be changed. It is proposed to call it Foal Anaemia and
Immunodeficiency (FAI). Research is continuing, they are looking
already at evidence for the genetic defect in other breeds.