An American firm has developed a smartphone app capable of providing a fecal egg count for horses.
The Parasight system could one day replace the decades-old system of getting fecal egg counts by manually counting numbers on a special McMaster microscope slide.
With Parasight, animal owners or veterinarians collect fecal samples on-site, pass them through a simple filter system, stain the eggs with the proprietary reagent and, within five minutes, take a picture of the glowing eggs.
They can then let their smartphone do the counting for them. The app can not only count the eggs, but differentiate between the different parasite eggs, providing individual counts for each kind.
The system eliminates centrifuges and microscopes. It means no more mailing samples to a laboratory and waiting days for the results.
The company, Kentucky-based MEP Equine Solutions, says it is continuing to fine-tune the process and plans to bring the product to market in January.
It has received a $US100,000 small business grant from the US Department of Agriculture to continue work on the technology.
The grant, which targets animal production and protection, introduces technology to perform a simple on-site test to allow veterinarians and animal owners to diagnose the presence of parasites using smartphone technology. The Parasight System provides quantitative results in less than five minutes and emails imaged test results with egg count/ type and treatment recommendation to veterinarians and animal owners.
“Current technology using the McMaster slide method is time-consuming and requires both specialized equipment and training,” said Eric Hauck, who is the chief executive and co-founder of MEP Equine Solutions.
“In fact, it has made little advancement since its inception over 75 years ago.”
He said the Parasight system introduced a simple, easy-to-use smartphone-based diagnostic system that provided imaged results which can be emailed to the veterinarian and animal owner in less than five minutes.
“It introduces a technology that has previously been unavailable in either the veterinary or agriculture industry.”
Hauck said the company was fortunate to have the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center as a research facility partner.
He said experts such as the Gluck Center’s Martin Nielsen, a world-renowned parasitologist and also a co-founder of the company, had contributed to the rapid technology advances used in Parasight.
“The tremendous team effort allowed us to determine a rapid mechanism to detect parasites in fecal samples and to differentiate parasite eggs, enabling a complete fecal egg count in under five minutes showing ‘glowing’ fecal parasite eggs and their respective count to enable a veterinarian to determine appropriate treatment,” shared Paul Slusarewicz, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder of MEP Equine Solutions and University of Kentucky adjunct professor.
Nancy Cox, who is dean of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and the Environment, described the system as a promising and pioneering innovation in the field of parasitology.
“This new tool will allow immediate on-site results, with more timely treatment and management,” Cox said.
She said the department was pleased to work in partnership with the company and Dr Paul Slusarewicz’s team in advancing what she described as compelling veterinary and agriculture technology.