Various Circumstances Regarding Initial Allergen Exposure and Their Influence on Development of Insect Bite Hypersensitivity in Horses

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Insect bite hypersensitivity (IBH), an allergic reaction to the saliva of Culicoides, occurs in all horse breeds and is a severe problem. In this study, we aimed at exploring whether exterior conditions, such as duration of allergenic exposure during the first summer and age of the horses at the time of import, influence the development of IBH. Additionally, data were analyzed regarding the period IBH started after birth and after import. Datasets for 582 horses were collected. The horses were locally born Icelandic horses and horses of other breeds with IBH, as well as imported Icelandic horses, both affected and nonaffected. For locally born horses, time of birth and duration of allergen exposure during the first summer had no influence on the prevalence of IBH. The disease started mostly in their third year of life. The majority of the imported horses affected caught IBH during their first year in Central Europe. Older imported horses seemed to develop IBH quicker than younger animals. Animals imported in their first winter are exposed to the allergen when they are at least 7 months old. They experienced approximately the same low risk of developing IBH as locally bred horses. The risk of IBH increased with the horses' age at import. From our data, we conclude that the period to develop successful immune tolerance goes beyond the perinatal phase and is longer than formerly supposed.

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