Scientific Reports, a Nature Research publication, publishes new research identifying new allergen associated with severe equine asthma (sEA)

Scientific Reports, a Nature Research publication, publishes new research identifying new allergen associated with severe equine asthma (sEA)


Becky James BSc MSc
Director of Technical Sales, Haygain

It is common knowledge that the inhalation of stable ‘dust’ in predisposed horses results in SEA (previously known as recurrent airway obstruction/heaves/COPD). “We know this ‘dust’ contains bacteria, fungi, pollen and arthropods (e.g. mites), but what we wanted to establish was the precise allergen that elicit this prevalent and debilitating condition” said researcher Samuel White, who conducted the study under the supervision of Professor Meriel Moore-Colyer of the Royal Agricultural University and Professors Duncan Hannant and Marcos Alcocer of the University of Nottingham.

Utilising advances in computational and robotic technologies, White developed a novel method which enabled the simultaneous assessment of almost 400 potential allergen in over 130 SEA-affected and healthy horses. This was the widest-scale allergen assessment in SEA horses to date and revealed many similarities with human allergic asthma. The results confirmed allergen previously identified in hay (e.g. Aspergillus fumigatus), as well as revealing a plethora of unidentified bacteria, fungi and arthropod. Previous research by Moore-Colyer et al (2016)* has proven high temperature steaming of hay with a Haygain removes the airborne dust from the breathing zone of the horse, and is thus effective against these allergens. White’s work also identified pollen allergens, which had not previously been associated with SEA.       

“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.”

Samuel White, 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 the human. These results indicate that exposure to latex may be detrimental to the respiratory health of the horse. 

Mathematical modelling of the microarray data enabled the accurate diagnosis of SEA using a small sample of blood for the first time, potentially negating the use of more invasive diagnostic methods. Moreover, identification of allergens involved in this condition will enable accurate allergen avoidance, which is the cornerstone to SEA treatment, and inform future diagnostic and therapeutic advancements. 

The study “Antigen array for serological diagnosis and novel allergen identification in severe equine asthma” is published in Scientific Reports, a Nature Research publication and is available online at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-51820-7#citeas

 “I would like to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude once more for the funding provided by Haygain along with the Fred and Marjory Sainsbury Trust, and the Royal Agricultural University that made this research possible, and improving the health and welfare of horses affected with severe equine asthma “

 “I would like to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude once more for the funding provided by Haygain along with the Fred and Marjory Sainsbury Trust, and the Royal Agricultural University that made this research possible, and improving the health and welfare of horses affected with severe equine asthma “ added White.

Haygain manufactures and markets a hay steaming device that is scientifically proven to reduce up to 99%** of dust, bacteria, fungi and mold in hay. The traditional method of reducing allergens in hay – soaking – does dampen down dust, but research has proven that soaking also increases the bacterial content of hay by as much as 150% in just 10 minutes.*** Haygain steamed hay has been shown to reduce clinical signs of sEA caused by the dust and fungal content in hay.****

Haygain’s ComfortStall flooring, which is latex-free, also reduces dust and the risk of respiratory contaminants in the stable environment. This impermeable, orthopedic, sealed surface reduces the need for stable bedding, another source of sEA-causing allergens. ComfortStall flooring was developed with Cornell University Veterinary Hospital.

In a press release of October 14, 2019 Bill Moroney, Chief Executive Officer of US Equestrian stated, “The research and data supporting the success and importance of [Haygain’s] product, both in overall performance and general care, made this brand an important one for us to bring into the US Equestrian fold.”

* Moore-Colyer, M.J.S., Taylor, J.L.E and James, R. (2016) Moore-Colyer, M.J.S., Taylor, J.L.E and James, R. (2016) The Effect of Steaming and Soaking on the Respirable Particle, Bacteria, Mould, and Nutrient Content in Hay for Horses Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. 39: 62-68

** Journal of Equine Veterinary Science (Moore-Colyer, M.J.S. Taylor, J. and James, R. The effect of steaming and soaking on the respirable particle, bacteria, mould and nutrient content in hay for horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. Aug 2015 Language: English. DOI: 10.1016/j.jevs.2015.09.006, http://www.j-evs.com/article/S0737-0806(15)00581-X/abstract

*** Moore-Colyer, M.J.S and Fillery, B.G. (2012) The effect of three different treatments on the respirable particle content, total viable count and mould concentrations in hay for horses. 6th European Workshop for Equine Nutrition, Lisbon, Portugal, June. 101- 106.

**** Blumerich, C.A., Buechner-Maxwell, V.A., Scrratt, W.K., Wilson, K.E., Ricco, C., Becvarova, I., Hodgson, J. and Were, S. (2012) Comparison of airway response of Recurrent Airway Obstruction affected horses fed steamed versus non-steamed hay. Proceedings of the Annual ACVIM Conference, 2012.

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