Method improves test for heartworm infection in cats

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Researchers from Oklahoma State University have identified a method of improving the sensitivity of serum antigen assays for detection of heartworm infection in cats. 

The study appeared Jan. 14 in the online, open-access journal Parasites & Vectors. Bayer HealthCare Animal Health funded the study.
The researchers found that heat treatment of feline serum samples prior to testing can considerably improve the sensitivity of antigen assays and, in turn, result in a more accurate diagnosis of heartworm infection in cats.

“We believe this study’s findings will enhance detection of heartworm infection in cats, improving both patient care and veterinarians’ understanding of the true extent of feline heartworm,” said Dr. Susan E. Little, lead investigator.

“When antigen-based assays were first developed for detecting canine heartworm, the serum was pre-treated with heat or acid to destroy immune complexes prior to testing, as they were recognized as inhibiting detection of antigen in some canine samples,” she continued. “This step is no longer included in protocols of antigen tests, including those labeled for use in cats. I think this study’s findings could ultimately lead to a revision in the protocol for feline testing.”