Background Insect bite hypersensitivity (IBH) is an IgE-mediated allergic dermatitis in horses incited by salivary allergens from Culicoides spp. IBH does not occur in Iceland, as the causative agents are absent, however a high prevalence is seen in horses exported to Culicoides-rich environments. Aims To study the natural course of sensitization to Culicoides allergens and identify the primary sensitizing allergen(s) in horses exported from Iceland utilizing a comprehensive panel of Culicoides recombinant (r-) allergens. Method IgE microarray profiling to 27 Culicoides r-allergens was conducted on 110 serological samples from horses imported to Switzerland from Iceland that subsequently developed IBH or remained healthy. Furthermore, a longitudinal study of 31 IBH horses determined IgE profiles the summer preceding first clinical signs of IBH (TIBH-1), the summer of first clinical signs (TIBH) and the following summer (TIBH+1). In a group of Icelandic horses residing in Sweden, effects of origin (born in Iceland or Sweden) and duration of IBH (<4 years, 4–7 years, >7 years) on Culicoides-specific IgE was evaluated. Sero-positivity rates and IgE levels were compared. Results At TIBH, horses were sensitized to a median of 11 r-allergens (range = 0–21), of which nine were major allergens. This was significantly higher than TIBH-1 (3, 0–16), as well as the healthy (1, 0–14) group. There was no significant increase between TIBH and TIBH+1(12, 0–23). IBH-affected horses exported from Iceland had a significantly higher degree of sensitization than those born in Europe, while duration of IBH did not significantly affect degree of sensitization. Conclusion Significant sensitization is only detected in serum the year of first clinical signs of IBH. Horses become sensitized simultaneously to multiple Culicoides r-allergens, indicating that IgE-reactivity is due to co-sensitization rather than cross-reactivity between Culicoides allergens. Nine major first sensitizing r-allergens have been identified, which could be used for preventive allergen immunotherapy.
© 2021 Birras et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.