When bacteria bloom in the blood the ensuing battle can wreak havoc on the body. Endotoxemia, bacterial blood poisoning, ignites a rising tide of immune cells and blood platelets that help fight infection but can also cause tissue damage. In horses, endotoxemia and subsequent inflammation can cause severe complications following abdominal surgeries, in common equine disorders including colic and retained placenta, and in weak foals that fail to nurse properly.
Dr. Thomas Divers is leading a team of Cornell veterinarians investigating a new approach to treating the effects of endotoxemia by quelling the rampaging immune response. Collaborators Drs. Marjory Brooks, Susan Fubini, Ashlee Watts, Tracy Stokol, and Sally Ness aid in the investigation.
“Veterinary clinicians currently use a ‘best guess’ approach to managing horses with endotoxemia,” said Divers. “They typically administer a broad spectrum of treatments to clear bacteria and support cell repair, but specific attempts to block the inflammatory response have mostly failed. We have developed a new strategy for treating endotoxin that targets blood platelets as a key control point.”
If successful, this novel approach will change the best-guess strategy into an evidence-based solution to suffering by using the anti-platelet drug clopidogrel (Plavix®), one of the most commonly used drugs in human medicine. The project will provide insights into the pathophysiology of endotoxemia and the ability of Plavix® to down-regulate platelet reactivity in endotoxic horses.
“Plavix® is a highly effective oral anti-platelet agent, and holds promise for helping treat inflamed horses,” said Divers. “We have optimized techniques to evaluate equine platelet reactivity, forming a testing panel broadly applicable for investigating thrombosis in horses, particularly in studying laminitis. We are now performing anti-platelet drug treatment trials for horses with endotoxemia. The trials are going well, and we are looking forward to publishing by the end of the year. When the patent on Plavix® expires in 2012, generic versions of the drug will become available, and we will be poised to start using anti-platelet drugs to affordably and effectively treat blood poisoning and inflammation in horses.”