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Can J Vet Res. 2008 Oct;72(5):432-9.

Markers of respiratory inflammation in horses in relation to seasonal changes in air quality in a conventional racing stable.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Sciences, Equine Internal Medicine, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden.


Airborne factors in a conventionally managed racing stable and markers of pulmonary inflammation in the stabled horses were investigated on 3 occasions at 6-month intervals, including 2 winter periods and the intervening summer period. The stable measurements included inside and outside ambient temperature and relative humidity, levels of total and respirable dust, endotoxin, and 1,3-beta-glucan. Horses (n = 12) were examined in detail clinically as well as by endoscopy, bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cytology, and real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis of BAL-cells for IL-6 and IL-10 mRNA. Indoor measurements showed low dust levels irrespective of season. Inhalable dust, as well as 1,3-beta-glucan, were higher during the winter stabling period, whereas endotoxin levels were higher during summer. Complete data from all sampling occasions to be used for further evaluation was obtained for only 8 of the horses. There was a trend for elevation of BAL neutrophils in the horses during winter stabling that coincided with a 3.7-fold increased expression of IL-6 mRNA in BAL cells (P = 0.014). Compared to summer sampling, IL-10 mRNA expression was significantly upregulated in only 1 of the winter sampling occasions, implicating influence on immune regulation by factor/s apart from seasonal differences. Our findings suggest up-regulation of innate immunity in the airways of stabled horses; in particular involving IL-6 in association with mild elevations in respirable dust, 1,3-beta-glucan, and/or cold ambient air. However, given that this study was observational, other unmeasured environmental factors associated with winter stabling need to be considered.

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