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Discussing the Impact of KeyScreen® GI Parasite PCR with Inventor, Dr. Christian M. Leutenegger

The human-pet bond is one of many reasons Dr. Christian M. Leutenegger, VP, Research and Development at Antech Diagnostics, was drawn to animal health. He has committed his life’s work, over 35 years, to help further the veterinary diagnostic industry.

“The human-pet bond has become so strong,” said Dr. Leutenegger. “We treat our pets as family members, and because of this, pet care and diagnostic tests need to advance to protect our pets, their owners and the environment.”

His most recent One Health initiative contribution was the invention of KeyScreen® GI Parasite PCR — the most advanced screening solution for GI parasites.

KeyScreen® GI Parasite PCR is Paving the Path for Parasite Screening

KeyScreen® GI Parasite PCR is the most advanced veterinary diagnostic platform of its kind. It detects 20 intestinal parasites in cats and dogs, as well as emerging issues in veterinary medicine, like hookworm (Ancylostoma caninum) benzimidazole resistance and Giardia strains with zoonotic potential, both presenting human health risks.

The protocol to test for hookworm parasite resistance is a fecal egg reduction test, which requires counting the eggs twice within a 2–4 week interval during treatment. It’s expensive, it’s time-consuming, and it doesn’t fully address parasite exposure risk to people or the environmental contamination burden.

“This is where KeyScreen makes such a key difference,” said Dr. Leutenegger, “because you only need to test one time and you can treat immediately. It’s also affordable with a fast turnaround time, so vets can include this as part of their wellness screening program.”

As treatment resistance spreads and parasites continue to increase, mutate, and migrate, veterinary medicine requires new diagnostics like KeyScreen, that offer greater parasite coverage, sensitivity, and accuracy when compared to traditional screening tools.

“This is why KeyScreen is so fundamentally important for pets, people, and the environment. It allows clinicians to recognize these parasites early and treat with precision.” said Dr. Leutenegger.

A Florida Study Showed the Effects of Parasites on Pets, People, and the Environment.

Antech recently released a study looking at pet dogs infected with hookworm and their resistance to benzimidazole. The study showed that nearly 1 in 3 hookworms were benzimidazole treatment-resistant.

“What is extremely important to realize,” said Dr. Leutenegger, “in the Florida study, a large number of dogs had chronic hookworm infections and were shedding this (poop) into the environment. The pets and people in that contaminated environment were exposed to treatment-resistant hookworm, which facilitated reinfection of the same dogs and other dogs in the same environment, creating a vicious circle. This imposes an infection risk for people too, as hookworm is zoonotic.”

The Florida study revealed the surveillance impact that an effective, efficient test can have on the animals and people in a hookworm-contaminated environment.

“With KeyScreen, you are able to choose the right treatment after one single test,” said Dr. Leutenegger. “Knowing the right treatment path early protects the people living in the dogs’ environment as well — which is a key component of the One Health initiative.”

How KeyScreen® GI Parasite PCR will Impact the Veterinary Industry and Beyond

“A panel like KeyScreen does not exist on the human medicine side,” said Dr. Leutenegger. “Parasites are hugely underrecognized in people, specifically children. For example, the CDC noticed that the most frequent reason for human one-sided vision impairment is infection with roundworm, which can come from cats or dogs.”

Being able to quickly find parasites, quickly understand drug resistance, and efficiently treat are the three ingredients that make a big impact on pets, people, and the environment. One of Dr. Leutenegger’s goals with KeyScreen GI Parasite PCR is to push back the parasite’s resistance rate.

“It will take a multi-pronged approach to push back against hookworms, roundworms, and other parasites that are zoonotic,” said Dr. Leutenegger. “It’s not just that we treat the right way, it’s also that we eliminate the parasite efficiently, and we address the environmental contamination to reduce re-infection and human risk. Eliminating the parasite in our pets efficiently will reduce the environmental burden and the generation of drug resistance; an important part of pharmaceutical stewardship.”

When pets are tested for parasites with this advanced PCR screening panel at a higher frequency, you not only arrive at treatment faster, but you also get a more comprehensive look at the parasite prevalence in your environment.

“KeyScreen should be included in wellness testing programs,” said Dr. Leutenegger. “Testing the recommended twice a year in adult pets would reveal a large number of parasite infections, including hookworm and Giardia strains with zoonotic potential. Infrequent testing leads to an underestimation of parasite frequency. Running KeyScreen as part of a pet wellness program, twice a year as recommended for adult dogs and cats by CAPC (link to CAPC website) — that’s when you will start seeing more parasitic infections in pets and will be able to formulate a treatment plan that makes a big impact.” 

Antech has a network of more than 70 reference labs across North America, including 10 PCR labs that run KeyScreen GI Parasite PCR — enabling most clinics to receive next-day results.

Dive into our KeyScreen GI Parasite PCR algorithm, white paper, webinar and more.

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