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Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2008 Nov 15;126(1-2):102-9. doi: 10.1016/j.vetimm.2008.06.010. Epub 2008 Jul 4.

Allergen-specific IgE in Icelandic horses with insect bite hypersensitivity and healthy controls, assessed by FcepsilonR1alpha-based serology.

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  • 1Norsholms Djursjukhus, Biskop Henriks v. 6, S-610 21 Norsholm, Sweden.


Insect bite hypersensitivity (IBH) and atopy can both be causes of pruritus in horses and are associated with allergen-specific IgE to biting insects and environmental allergens respectively. Information with respect to differences in IgE levels in diseased and healthy animals is crucial in enabling an understanding of the clinical relevance of results of allergen-specific IgE tests. The aim of this study was (i) to evaluate and compare levels of allergen-specific IgE, using an ELISA method, in Icelandic horses, with and without IBH, from Iceland and Sweden respectively; (ii) to investigate patterns of allergen-specific IgE to insects, pollens, moulds and mites in those groups of horses; and (iii) to investigate the clinical significance of employing two different cut-off levels for the ELISA. The study compromised a total number of 99 horses from Iceland and Sweden, with and without IBH, divided in 5 groups. Sera from the horses were analysed blindly with the use of Allercept , a non-competitive, solid-phase ELISA-test, designed to detect the presence of allergen-specific IgE in sera using the recombinant alpha chain of the high-affinity IgE receptor (FcepsilonR1alpha). The distribution of the ELISA values was shown for each insect, mould, mite and pollen allergen, in the different groups using 10th, 50th and 90th percentiles. The use of two cut-off levels, 150 EA and 300 EA, did not eliminate the false positives. Horses with IBH had a higher number of positive reactions, counting all the 29 allergens, than healthy controls and this was borderline significant (P=0.053). In this study it was shown that serological testing with an ELISA that uses the high-affinity IgE receptor (FcepsilonR1alpha) is presently not suitable as a tool for establishing a diagnosis of IBH or equine atopy. The importance of establishing a correct cut-off level for the ELISA for the different allergens is emphasised.

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