New research on asthma in horses finds possible link to latex

The biggest ever study into the causes of severe equine asthma (sEA) has revealed associations with over 113 substances, including latex found in artificial surfaces.

Lead researcher Sam White who carried out the study for the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) and the University of Nottingham – found that natural rubber latex was among ‘the most surprising and significant’ of several new allergens present in the dust horses breathe.

White’s method used advanced computing power to assess 400 potential allergens in over 130 sEA-affected and healthy horses, working with research groups in Switzerland, France, Canada and USA.

The research revealed many similarities with human allergic asthma and confirmed previously unlinked bacteria, fungi, arthropod and pollen allergens.

He said: “The most significant and surprising allergens associated with sEA were from natural rubber latex. Latex is historically associated with the equine environment in the form of artificial surfaces on arenas and racetracks.

“The high level of respirable dust associated with training on these surfaces has already been linked with chronic bronchitis, inflammation and oxidative stress in riding instructors, and latex has long been associated with a variety of respiratory conditions in humans.

“These early results show it could be linked to respiratory problems in horses too, although it is too early to make a firm conclusion based on these data and further work is needed.”

The research used mathematical modelling to enable diagnosis of sEA from a blood sample, preventing the reliance on more invasive diagnostic techniques currently employed.

White, now a Lecturer in Equine Science at Nottingham Trent University, said the identification of new allergen would improve allergen avoidance and inform future diagnostic tests and therapies.

The research programme was supported by the Fred and Marjorie Sainsbury Charitable Trust and HAYGAIN, Morris Animal Foundation (Grant No.: D16EQ-039), the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant No.: 310030-160196/1) and Stiftung Forschung für das Pferd.

The paper Antigen array for serological diagnosis and novel allergen identification in severe equine asthma [S. J.White , M. Moore-Colyer, E. Marti, D. Hannant, V.Gerber, L. Coüetil, E.A. Richard, M. Alcocer (2019)] is published in the journal Scientific Reports and available online at Nature Research.