Equine 'Breathalyzer' Helps Diagnose Lower Airway Inflammation

Based on diagnostic tests currently used in human medicine, researchers from the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom have reported preliminary findings on the use of an easy and non-invasive analysis of "exhaled breath condensate" that could lead to improved diagnosis and monitoring of lower airway disease in horses.

Lower airway inflammation in horses encompasses a number of conditions including recurrent airway obstruction and inflammatory airway disease. Signs of lower airway disease include cough, mucopurulent discharge, abnormal tracheal and lung sounds, decreased performance, increased respiratory effort, or respiratory distress.

"The current diagnostic test of choice for LAI in horses is analysis of fluid obtained by a bronchoalveolar lavage," said Kristopher J Hughes, BVSc, FACVSc, Dipl. ECEIM, MRCVS, a senior lecturer from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Glasgow.

According to Hughes, "Analysis of exhaled breath condensate (EBC) is a useful technique in human medicine for the detection of inflammatory diseases of the lower airways, including asthma. EBC can be assessed for the presence and concentration of various compounds including hydrogen ions (i.e. pH), hydrogen peroxide, nitric oxide, arachidonic acid metabolites, cytokines, and leukotrienes, among others."

To determine if either pH or hydrogen peroxide in the EBC from horses was related to lower airway inflammation, Hughes and colleagues collected EBC from 11 healthy horses and 5 horses with inflammation.

"In our study, we found a trend for a reduced pH in the airways of with airway inflammation, consistent with findings of human studies that have documented airway acidification in patients with lower airway inflammation" said Hughes. "EBC has potential to contribute to a better understanding of [lower airway inflammation] in horses and could prove to be an invaluable diagnostic and monitoring tool."

Hughes' study is scheduled to be published in an upcoming edition of the journal Research in Veterinary Science. The abstract is currently available on PubMed.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.

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