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HEREDITARY diseases present two problems for veterinarians and animal owners. First, animal owners become fond of their charges and discovering a genetic flaw is personally upsetting as well as tragic for the animal. Secondly, the genetic integrity of their livestock is a lifetime goal of animal breeders, hence discovering a genetic flaw raises concerns about the viability of the enterprise. Until recently, breeders had few tools to investigate the genetics of their animals beyond the performance histories of their produce. Breeders traditionally seek genetics advice from veterinarians who may offer advice found in 50-year-old textbooks; specifically, avoid inbreeding and cull known carriers of disease genes. However, culling animals in a small, endangered population is not wise because the loss of any animal means loss of genetic variation and viability of the population. An alternative approach is needed.
In a paper summarised in this week's issue of Veterinary Record, Fox-Clipsham and others (2011a) describe approaches to dealing with foal immunodeficiency syndrome that herald a new era in veterinary genetics. The authors describe an effective approach to veterinary diagnostics for a hereditary disease, as well as an intelligent breeding management system designed to avoid affected offspring while maintaining genetic diversity in an already inbred population.
Foal immunodeficiency …