Icelandic horses in Austria are commonly affected by an allergic inflammatory skin disease recurring during the summer seasons, which shares characteristic features with Culicoides hypersensitivity. However, the causative agents have not yet been identified. Therefore, intradermal skin testing (IDST) with a standardised extract of Culicoides variipennis and 21 other allergens relevant within Austria was performed in 81 Icelandic horses. All horses included into the study were treated regularly with ivermectin and had no history of administration of anti-inflammatory drugs. Forty-three of these horses were affected by summer seasonal recurrent dermatitis (SSRD). No history or signs of any other disease were evident in any horse. Pruritic dermatitis due to ectoparasites, bacteria and dermatophytes were ruled out by means of fungal culture, skin scraping and biopsy.
Culicoides variipennis antigens evoked a positive cutaneous reaction in 1 of 38 normal and 3 of 43 SSRD horses at the proposed dilution of 1:50,000 or 1:25,000, and in 24 of 38 normal and 13 of 43 SSRD horses at a dilution of 1:10,000. Furthermore, no significant differences in onset or intensity of skin reactions to the 21 other allergens, including pollens, moulds, mites and insects, except deerfly and horsefly, were obvious between the 2 groups. Efficiency (percentage of correct results) for the used antigens in the skin test was 0.47–0.60. Maximal sensitivity was 0.51. Altogether, 38 of 43 SSRD horses and 28 of 38 normal horses were positive 4 h after allergen administration. The divergence between IDST results and manifestation of clinical signs found in this study underlines the difficulties associated with establishing a skin test protocol in horses within a geographic area. Whether the outcome of this study would have been influenced significantly by using Culicoides spp. present in Austria has to be clarified in future research.