Does EMS Impact Horses’ Immune Responses to Vaccines?

EMS did not appear to significantly impact horses’ humoral responses compared to age-matched controls, researchers said.
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Obesity is a serious growing problem in horses, with studies estimating anywhere from 20.6 to 41% of horses are substantially overweight. Of course, this condition impacts more than just the size of a horse’s girth. Obesity is also a key component of equine metabolic syndrome (or EMS), which can put horses at risk for a number of related health issues including the most devastating of all, laminitis.

Because scientists have shown that both obese humans and mice have an altered immune response to vaccinations compared to those at healthy weights, researchers wondered if the same was true for horses with EMS. If true, this could leave EMS horses with less protection against potentially fatal diseases.

Sarah Elzinga, MS, a PhD student studying under the direction of Amanda Adams, PhD, at the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center, in Lexington, shared what she and her team learned when they conducted a study on the topic at the 2016 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) Forum, held June 8-11 in Denver, Colorado.

The team hypothesized that EMS horses, like mice and humans, would have a reduced response to an influenza vaccine compared to their non-EMS counterparts

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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