Biomarkers of kidney disease in horses

The one marker that we routinely use to diagnose kidney disease in horses — creatinine — is not an ideal marker. Having additional biomarkers in blood and urine that can be measured could be beneficial. This review assesses available literature on new equine kidney biomarkers, and the authors suggest recommendations for clinical use in equine medicine.

Creatinine only allows detection of kidney disease when 60 to 75% of the glomerular function is lost and is therefore not an ideal marker of disease. Additional biomarkers could be beneficial to assess kidney function and disease. The objectives are to describe new equine kidney biomarkers. 

This systematic review assesses the available literature, including the validation process and reference values, following which the authors suggest recommendations for clinical use. 

SDMA (symmetric dimethylarginine) may have some potential as equine kidney biomarker, but there is currently a lack of evidence that SDMA offers any advantage compared to creatinine in detecting Acute Kidney Injury (AKI). Cystatin C and podocin show potential as biomarkers for kidney disease (including detecting AKI earlier than creatinine) and should be studied further. NGAL (neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin) has potential as a biomarker of kidney disease (including detecting AKI earlier than creatinine), and potential as an inflammatory marker. Literature on MMP-9 does not allow for conclusive statements about its potential as a biomarker for kidney disease. The future may show that NAG has potential. For all biomarkers, at this stage, available scientific information is limited or too scarce to support clinical use, and only SDMA can be measured for clinical purposes. 

In conclusion, there are multiple new biomarkers with the potential to diagnose kidney problems. However, there are only a few studies available, and more data is needed before these biomarkers can be applied and recommended in our daily practice.

Gaby van Galen, et al. “Biomarkers of Kidney Disease in Horses: A Review of the Current Literature.” Animals (Basel). 2022 Oct 5;12(19):2678. doi: 10.3390/ani12192678.

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