EQUUS - - Eq Medical Front -

Research from Ice­land sug­gests that ge­net­i­cally al­tered feed may help con­trol in­sect hy­per­sen­si­tiv­ity in the coun­try’s na­tive horse breeds.

Ice­landic horses sent to other coun­tries have a high in­ci­dence of “sweet itch,” an in­tense al­ler­gic re­ac­tion to the saliva of biting midges ( Culi­coides spp.). The breed is pre­dis­posed to this al­lergy be­cause the in­sects re­spon­si­ble aren’t found in Ice­land, so horses there have no op­por­tu­nity to de­velop a nor­mal im­mune re­sponse to their bites.

To de­ter­mine whether a spe­cially mod­i­fied feed might help man­age or pre­vent Culi­coides al­lergy in horses, re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Ice­land grew bar­ley that had been ge­net­i­cally al­tered to pro­duce a pro­tein sim­i­lar to one found in the saliva of the midges. Then they fed flour pro­duced from that bar­ley to four Ice­landic horses. In ad­di­tion, three horses were fed flour made from un­al­tered bar­ley to serve as con­trols. After the horses in­gested seven doses of the al­tered flour, the re­searchers an­a­lyzed sam­ples of their blood and saliva for the pres­ence of an­ti­bod­ies.

They found an­ti­bod­ies to the midge al­ler­gen in sam­ples from all of the treated horses. What’s more, there were signs that the an­ti­bod­ies could act upon the al­ler­gens, which sug­gests that they might min­i­mize the horse’s im­mune re­sponse out­side of the lab­o­ra­tory set­ting.

The re­searchers call for ad­di­tional stud­ies to ex­plore whether feed-based treat­ments are a vi­able op­tion for horses with in­sect hy­per­sen­si­tiv­ity.

Ref­er­ence: “Oral ad­min­is­tra­tion of trans­genic bar­ley ex­press­ing a Culi­coides al­ler­gen in­duces spe­cific an­ti­body re­sponse,” Equine Vet­eri­nary Jour­nal, De­cem­ber 2016



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