Oscillometry used to delve into the breathing of asthmatic horses

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Technology used to assess human cases shows promise in identifying asthmatic horses in remission.
File image. By Piet van de Wiel

Researchers have applied technology normally used in assessing asthma in humans to drill down into the breathing of horses also affected by the condition.

The study team found that the use of oscillometry has the potential to identify severely asthmatic horses, even in the absence of clinical signs.

Horses can spontaneously develop asthma, which shares several similarities with the human form.

The disease in horses is classified as either mild-moderate or severe. Severe equine asthma is characterized by coughing, exercise intolerance, and recurrent episodes of increased respiratory effort at rest, alternated with periods of remission of clinical signs.

Oscillometry is a technique that measures the resistance and the reactance of the respiratory system. In humans, it allows doctors to identify the presence of tidal expiratory flow limitation.

Researchers in Italy employed an impulse oscillometry system to characterize breathing in horses. They used the technology on seven horses with severe asthma while in clinical remission, comparing the results with those from seven healthy control horses.

The within-breath analysis showed differences between the control horses and the asthmatic horses in remission. That, they said, showed it has potential for identifying asthmatic horses in the absence of clinical signs.

The technology was also able to identify an increase in expiratory reactance, similar to that arising from expiratory flow limitation observed in human asthmatic patients with airway obstruction.

The authors said their study, described in the journal Animals, is the first to report on the sensitivity of impulse oscillometry system in discriminating between healthy horses and those in remission of severe asthma.

Horses with severe asthma in remission have normal lung function when evaluated using standard lung mechanics, despite the presence of a residual airway obstruction.

The authors noted that previously published research had shown that asthmatic horses suffer from chronic remodeling of airways that is only partially improved by treatment or avoidance of allergens.

It could be speculated, they said, that breathing changes identified in asthmatic horses in remission could be the result of airway changes similar to those seen in asthmatic humans.

Stucchi, L.; Ferrucci, F.; Bullone, M.; Dellacà, R.L.; Lavoie, J.P. Within-Breath Oscillatory Mechanics in Horses Affected by Severe Equine Asthma in Exacerbation and in Remission of the Disease. Animals 2022, 12, 4. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12010004

The study, publihed under a Creative Commons License, can be read here

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