The project: Equine Insect Bite Hypersensitivity (IBH) is a Type I IgE-mediated allergy of horses to salivary proteins of Culicoides spp. (midges). IBH occurs throughout the world; it affects an estimated 3% of horses in the UK with up to 60% of horses developing this allergy in some situations, making it one of the commonest skin diseases of horses. IBH has a well described immuno-pathogenesis in which exposure of allergic horses to Culicoides antigens elicits an acute phase inflammatory response with local vasodilation, oedema and intense itching, causing distress to the horses and rubbing associated skin damage. The acute allergic reaction goes into remission during the winter months, but disease signs usually recur during subsequent periods of high insect activity. Persistent exposure to insect bites over several annual cycles leads to a chronic inflammatory response characterised by dermal fibrosis, epidermal hyperplasia and hyperkeratosis. Although this is not a life-threatening condition, the distress caused by unrelieved itching and the chronic nature of the disease result in a severe impact on the horse’s wellbeing and quality of life. The chronic debilitating nature of IBH, together with the current lack of effective therapies, makes this condition a major contributor to suffering and disease burden in affected horses. Our proposal presents the opportunity to build on over a decade of research into the fundamental causes of IBH and to take the initial steps towards developing an effective therapy which would directly benefit the welfare of affected horses. Research projects carried out at the University of Bristol has identified many of the identification of the abundant Culicoides salivary proteins which comprise the major allergens. We have synthesised a library of over twenty recombinant proteins expressed in E-coli representing all of the known allergen groups and several novel proteins not yet fully evaluated as allergens. The current project will use these recombinant proteins to measure the immune reactions of allergic horses and to conduct a preliminary double-blind placebo-controlled trial of sublingual immunotherapy. Having first defined the allergens to which each horse reacts, we will then administer a course of sublingual immunotherapy using these allergens and evaluate the effect of immunotherapy treatment on clinical signs and key parameters of the allergic immune response.
How to apply: Please make an online application for this project at http://www.bris.ac.uk/pg-howtoapply. Please select on the Programme Choice page and enter details of the studentship when prompted in the Funding and Research Details sections of the form
Candidate requirements: A degree in Veterinary Medicine registerable with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, a degree in Veterinary nursing preferably eligible for registration with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons , driving license, experience of handling horses.