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Research at Gloucestershire University throws light on causes of asthma in horses

Research carried out by experts at the Royal Agricultural University has revealed 113 substances that could cause severe asthma in horses.

Researchers at the Cirencester-based university have revealed that latex is among the 100 plus substances that could cause severe equine asthma (sEA).

Lead researcher Sam White, who carried out the research at the RAU and University of Nottingham found that natural rubber latex was among the problem substances.

The research said latex was among 'the most surprising and significant' of several new allergens present in the dust horses breathe.'

Mr 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 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 allergens would improve allergen avoidance and inform future diagnostic tests and therapies.

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