HY­POAL­LER­GENIC HORSES: FACT OR MYTH?

EQUUS - - Medical Front -

A Ger­man study chal­lenges the the­ory that Amer­i­can Bashkir Curly Horses are less likely than other breeds to trig­ger al­ler­gic re­ac­tions in peo­ple.

Peo­ple un­for­tu­nate enough to have an al­lergy to horses ex­pe­ri­ence many of the same symptoms as sea­sonal al­lergy suf­fer­ers. “The clin­i­cal pre­sen­ta­tion is vari­able but most peo­ple re­act to horse al­ler­gens with the typ­i­cal symptoms of hay fever, in­clud­ing sneez­ing, a runny, itchy or stuffy nose and itchy, burn­ing and wa­tery eyes,” says Eva Zahrad­nik, MSc, of the In­sti­tute of the RuhrUniver­sity Bochum. “In more se­vere cases, horse al­lergy can man­i­fest as asthma, in­clud­ing wheez­ing, cough­ing, chest tight­ness and short­ness of breath. Re­ac­tions of the skin (hives) are also pos­si­ble but less com­mon than res­pi­ra­tory symptoms.”

Curly Horses have long been re­puted to be less al­ler­genic than other types of horses. “This hy­poth­e­sis is mostly based on ex­pe­ri­ences of per­sons al­ler­gic to horses,” says Zahrad­nik. “Sev­eral web­sites, news­pa­per ar­ti­cles and TV segments re­port sto­ries of horseal­ler­gic in­di­vid­u­als who can han­dle Curly Horses without suf­fer­ing any al­ler­gic re­ac­tions.” Pre­lim­i­nary re­search seemed to con­firm these ob­ser­va­tions, but the rea­son for the lowal­ler­genic po­ten­tial of Curly Horses was un­clear, which led Zahrad­nik to de­vise a new study to test the premise.

Zahrad­nik’s team col­lected 224 hair sam­ples from 32 dif­fer­ent equine breeds. They also used per­sonal nasal fil­ters to col­lect dust in­haled by peo­ple groom­ing both Quar­ter Horses and Curly Horses. They then an­a­lyzed all the sam­ples us­ing a new im­munoas­say that de­tects the ma­jor equine al­ler­gen, Equ c 1, and a com­mer­cial im­munoas­say for the mi­nor al­ler­gen, Equ c 4.

“Equ c 1, which is found in horse dan­der, saliva and urine, be­longs to the lipocalin fam­ily of pro­teins and is pri­mar­ily con­sid­ered to be a car­rier of odor­ants and pheromones,” ex­plains Zahrad­nik. “Equ c 4 is a ma­jor com­po­nent of horse sweat and it acts like a detergent, caus­ing foam for­ma­tion on the coat of sweat­ing horses, es­pe­cially where rub­bing oc­curs. Both pro­teins are iden­ti­fied as al­ler­gens, which are sub­stances that bind to the an­ti­bod­ies [im­munoglob­u­lin E (IgE)] re­spon­si­ble for al­ler­gic re­ac­tions in sus­cep­ti­ble in­di­vid­u­als.”

The re­searchers found that---con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief---the dan­der and hair from Curly Horses con­tained as many al­ler­gens as those from horses of other breeds. In fact, the Curly Horses used in this study had higher lev­els of al­ler­gens than horses of other breeds. “The so-called hy­poal­ler­genic Curly Horses that we tested in our study had sig­nif­i­cantly higher al­ler­gen lev­els in hair than the ma­jor­ity of other in­ves­ti­gated breeds,” says Zahrad­nik. “Based on our orig­i­nal as­sump­tion, these re­sults were para­dox­i­cal, but not en­tirely un­ex­pected. Sim­i­lar re­sults have been pre­vi­ously pub­lished for dog breeds. Sig­nif­i­cantly higher con­cen­tra­tions of dog al­ler­gen Can f 1 were found in hair of ‘hy­poal­ler­genic’ dogs, like the Labradoo­dle or Poo­dle, than of ‘non­hy­poal­ler­genic’ dogs like the Labrador Re­triever. The con­cept of a hy­poal­ler­genic animal is still not sup­ported by sci­en­tific ev­i­dence.”

In­stead of dif­fer­ences be­tween breeds, the re­searchers dis­cov­ered a wide vari­a­tion in al­ler­gen con­cen­tra­tions among in­di­vid­u­als of the same breed. “These find­ings in­di­cate that some

WORD OF MOUTH: The idea that Curly Horses are less likely to trig­ger al­ler­gies in peo­ple than are other breeds is based on anec­do­tal ev­i­dence.

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