College of Agriculture
GLUCK EQUINE RESEARCH CENTER
Lexington, KY 40546-0099
Fax (859) 257-8542
Writer’s Direct Dial Number
July 27, 2017
To whom it may concern:
This letter is written as evidence for the scientific value of the group of horses assembled by the FRIENDS Inc rescue team in south Florida. The band of horses was first assembled in the early 1970’s by the grandmother of the current Director of FRIENDS, Debra Beye-Barwick, to provide a home for horses infected with equine infectious anemia virus (EIAV). When it was started, the percentage of horses in Florida and Louisiana (where I was a faculty member at LSU) infected by this virus was around 5%. Today, because of active control programs since 1972, the infection is rarely encountered in the US, because infected horses were generally killed when found infected.
In 1984, the virus that causes AIDS, HIV, was identified and shown to be a very close relative of EIAV! By contrast to AIDS-HIV, most persistent carriers of EIAV are without clinical signs of the disease. Horses have provided us a useful model of how hosts can live long and productive lives with lentivirus infections, if given the chance. My research program has worked with the horses assembled by the FRIENDS family since the 1970’s and today they represent a unique collection and one of the only places in the US where we can study the infection in persistently infected horses and understand better the risk they pose to uninfected horses in close physical contact.
In prior years, the numbers of infected horses they cared for were much higher than today, a testament to the success of our control program. Also in prior years, infected horses from other states were added to the group. In recent years this has not been possible because Florida will not permit their entry, further limiting the numbers. The FRIENDS group has continued to provide us access to this unique resource and I support and applaud their efforts to continue to maintain their activities in their excellent facilities. Please contact me if additional information is desired.
Charles J. Issel, DVM, PhD
Wright-Markey Chair of Equine Infectious Diseases