Oxidative stress occurs when antioxidant defence mechanisms are overwhelmed by free radicals and may lead to damage to DNA, which has been implicated in processes such as ageing and cancer. The Comet assay allows detection of oxidative DNA damage in individual cells. As horses with recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) have been shown to demonstrate low antioxidant status and oxidative stress, we hypothesised that peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of horses with RAO would demonstrate increases in DNA damage following natural allergen challenge.
Six horses (mean age 15 years, range 8-23 years) diagnosed with RAO (in remission) and 6 healthy breed matched controls (mean age 9 years, range 5-15 years) were studied. Blood samples were collected 7 days prior to challenge and immediately and 3 days after stabling on mouldy hay and straw for 24h. All animals were kept at grass prior to and after the challenge period. Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) was performed and neutrophil counts determined.