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News Article

Research reveals long-term impact of DNA tests on dog diseases

The number of pedigree dogs at risk of inherited diseases is being dramatically reduced by responsible breeders

Research carried out by scientists who work for the Kennel Club and the Animal Health Trust (AHT) in the UK, examined the long-term impact of dog breeders using DNA tests to avoid producing puppies affected by inherited conditions. The study specifically examined DNA tests for eight diseases in eight breeds. Researchers discovered that approximately ten years after each DNA test became available, the gene mutations that caused the diseases had decreased in each breed by 90 per cent or more. Their findings are published in PLoS ONE.

The study examined data for diseases such as progressive rod cone degeneration (prcd-PRA), an irreversible and blinding condition that cannot be treated; Spinocerebellar ataxia, a neurological condition that leads to incoordination and loss of balance in puppies and primary lens luxation, a painful and blinding inherited eye condition.

The breeds analysed in the study were the Labrador Retriever, Parson Russell Terrier, Gordon Setter, Irish Setter, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Miniature Bull Terrier, Cocker Spaniel and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

Similar previous studies, that investigated the frequency of disease mutations over time, analysed smaller and more restricted datasets than the current study. This study was able to take advantage of the way that the Kennel Club records DNA test results in its registration database.

Currently the Kennel Club records and openly publishes the results of DNA tests for over 70 different inherited diseases, representing approximately 10,000 DNA tested dogs each year. In some cases, the Kennel Club is able to use DNA test results from a registered dogs’ parents to determine whether the offspring carries the specific mutation associated with a particular disease. This enables a breeder to know a dog’s “hereditary status”, a process that is carried out for around 60,000 dogs a year. It is these data that has allowed this newly published research to investigate the previously unseen impact that breeders can have on the health of a breed.

Dr Cathryn Mellersh, Head of Canine Genetics at the AHT, said: “The majority of these mutations were identified by scientists working in the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the AHT. This research is testament to how The Kennel Club and Animal Health Trust partnership is significantly improving the lives of dogs. We’re delighted to be able to demonstrate the real-life, positive impact DNA testing can have on disease prevalence, and in turn how that is benefiting thousands of dogs.”

Dr Tom Lewis, Quantitative Geneticist & Genetics Research Manager at the Kennel Club, who co-wrote the study, said: “The Kennel Club and the Animal Health Trust have a long history of working together to develop and promote vital new DNA tests for breeders. Our research shows the sizable impact that responsible breeders can have, and have had, not only on the dogs that they breed, but also on the generations of dogs that come after them. It emphasises the importance of continued research into inherited conditions and shows the impact a simple DNA test can have.”

Read article: Changes in mutation frequency of eight Mendelian inherited disorders in eight pedigree dog populations following introduction of a commercial DNA test by T. W. Lewis and C. S. Mellersh, published in PLoS ONE (2019) 14(1): e0209864, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0209864

Article details

  • Date
  • 22 January 2019
  • Source
  • Animal Health Trust
  • Subject(s)
  • Dogs, Cats, and other Companion Animals