Researchers urge more studies of equine asthma

Horses could be a useful model for studying asthma in older people, according to researchers.

They cited similarities between aged-related asthma in humans and severe asthma in horses.

Michela Bullone and Jean-Pierre Lavoie, writing in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, said aging was associated with a dysregulation of the immune system, leading to a general pro-inflammatory state.

It is a process named inflamm-aging – aging related to a chronic state of inflammation.

Oxidative stress is known to have an important role in aging and in regulating immune responses, probably playing a role in the development of age-related diseases.

The function of the respiratory system declines with age, with asthma tending to be worse in older asthmatics than in younger patients.

Bullone and Jean-Pierre Lavoie, in their review, traversed age-related changes affecting the immune system, respiratory structure and function that could contribute to asthma occurrence in the elderly.

They suggested that naturally occurring equine asthma could be a valuable model for studying the importance of oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, and gradual deterioration of the immune system brought on by natural age advancement.

Severe equine asthma, also known as heaves, recurrent airway obstruction (RAO), or summer-pasture associated obstructive pulmonary disease (SPAOPD) is a spontaneously occurring disease of horses and is already a recognized model for human asthma, the pair said.

In its severe form, horses experience episodes of labored breathing at rest triggered by hay dust antigens. With no infection, it is reversible with bronchodilators.

The occurrence of severe equine asthma is determined by the interplay of genetics and environmental factors, they said, appearing clinically only in adult and geriatric horses.

“Whether its subclinical development starts early/earlier in the horse’s life has still to be established.

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