- is a foolproof test for CT soon to be found?
The Bedlington: is a CT test on the horizon?
For many years it has been apparent that not all cases of Copper Toxicosis in Bedlington Terriers could be identified by the DNA linkage test as significant numbers of Bedlingtons world wide are regularly identified as CT cases yet have DNA numbers 1:1 or 1:2. With the arrival of the deletion test it was hoped that at last an explanation would emerge. It quickly became apparent that this, sadly, was not the case.
Research in the UK, Australia, and Canada confirming this state of affairs led to the Kennel Club awarding a grant to Dr Susan Haywood at the University of Liverpool for a research project to try and find out what leads to these affecteds. Dr Susan Haywood is being supported in this project by Bart van de Sluis at the University of Utrecht. Another gene for CT is the focus of the present investigations. Dr Haywood is also collaborating with Prof. Diane Cox in Canada on a similar research project.
Dr Haywood is very anxious to identify these dogs since in time their natural increase in the population could lead to a situation similar to that in the early 1980’s. Her recent finding of a 1-1 CT affected dog, discovered because of a routine blood test (the case will be reported in the Vet. Record) has lead to a potential method for identification of these dogs. Funding by the Kennel Club, £700 from an unofficial Bedlington Club, a donation from the Health Group and personal donations from interested breeders means that she can offer some free tests. If your dog visits the Vet for some routine purpose but the liver enzymes are found to be high then perhaps you could take advantage of her offer which would be non stressful for all concerned and most valuable in identifying any possible CT cases, but would also point to other possible causes for the raised ALT/AST.
Interestingly Dr George Brewer has just announced that together with Vetgen (the discoverers of the linked marker "numbers" test) they are about to embark on a similar project. For the research Dr George Brewer at the University of Michigan is seeking the assistance of Bedlington owners in their further investigation of copper toxicosis.
Dr Brewer has written that they have been working to understand Copper Toxicosis for a long time. He states that they, like all of us, were hopeful that the linkage (numbers) and subsequent deletion testing would explain most if not all of the disease, but he states "it has become apparent that there is still more work to do."
He is proposing a study that "may help us understand the current state of the disease, and to help identify the direction that the research needs to take. VetGen has agreed to help us to DNA type animals that have been identified as potentially affected with CT."
Dr Brewer goes on to offer the same service as is offered to all UK Bedlington owners/breeders by Dr Susan Haywood. For any Bedlingtons identified as potentially affected with Copper Toxicosis Dr Haywood and Dr Brewer are both offering to have such dogs marker type and deletion tested free of charge. Both are also in the position to offer to measure the liver copper levels and look at the histology if a liver biopsy is being or has been performed, also free of charge.
Interestingly Dr Brewer supports Dr Haywood’s request to hear from anyone who has a Bedlington whose liver enzymes are high, particularly he asks for any dogs whose ALT/AST enzyme elevation is at least twice the normal level as he also believes this is a very good indicator that the dog may have CT.
Dr Haywood reports that she will soon be publishing a paper describing a recently discovered 1:1 affected in the UK, this underlines the need for none of us to be complacent and for the "doubting Thomas’s" to accept that biopsied affected Bedlingtons exist which are 1:1 with no deletions or 1:2 with one or no deletions. Such dogs are never-the-less affected with Copper Toxicosis, though they may well have it in the asymptomatic form (i.e. they do not show any external symptoms at all) and in some cases would not have been uncovered but for the elevated ALT in the blood, often discovered during a routine blood test, and confirmed by a subsequent biopsy.
Sadly other reported cases of 1:1 and 1:2 affecteds where biopsies have been carried out and referred or reported to the University of Liverpool have usually been sick dogs showing signs of liver failure. Some of these later succumbed to CT. Since they and many of the asymptomatic affecteds identified in the last decade or so are now dead, material in the form of DNA for the research projects is scarce.
Anyone who wishes to help the research on UK dogs, or who has reason to be concerned that their Bedlington’s liver is struggling as shown by high ALT/AST enzyme levels can ask their Vet to contact Susan Haywood at the University of Liverpool, Dept. of Vet. Pathology 44-(0) 151-794-4265/4258 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The good news is help, advice and free DNA and or biopsy analysis are all on offer to you and your vet.